Attack Of The Smartphone Zombies! A lack of situational awareness can get you killed


Smartphone zombies: they’re everywhere!They are fully as slow, even immobile as cinematic zombies, and thankfully, seem not to have an unquenchable desire for brains. I suspect it’s because their brains are at least partially linked to the circuitry of their phones, but I’m unaware of any definitive research into the matter. I do know that they are dangerous, as CNN reports:

San Francisco (CNN) — If somebody pulled out a gun on a crowded train you were riding on, would you notice? These people didn’t.

Why? They were too into their smartphones, a San Francisco prosecutor says.

The September killing of 20-year-old Justin Valdez on that busy train was shocking enough. The shooter, apparently picking the victim at random, shot the San Francisco State University student in the back.

Also shocking, the prosecutor says, was the initial actions of bystanders. Or inaction.

Shocking? Not to me. See what you think:

Some are no more than two to three feet to him,’ said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon ‘We’re seeing people that are so disconnected to their surroundings. This is not unique. People are being robbed, people are being hurt, people are being run over by cars because they’re so disconnected because of these phones.’ [skip]

‘Just for our own safety, wouldn’t you want to know if somebody standing next to you is pulling a gun out? I think I would,’ Gascon said.

I can think of something else I’d wish to do for my own safety, but let’s continue with the story:

The security footage of the incident is chilling. The man, donning a baseball hat and smile, lifts a .45-caliber handgun in plain view, three or four times. He waves the weapon as if choosing who he wants to kill. At one point, he even wipes his nose with the gun. But nobody seemed to notice until the blast goes off.

I suspect this comment is from a stereotypical “man on the street—or in this case, woman on the street”—interview:

That’s just people’s stupidity, I guess, ignorance of what’s happening around them,’ said Whitney Bulmer.

Stupidity? Perhaps, but there are two significant issues here: an almost total lack of situational awareness, and the willful disarmament of honest citizens by virtually every government that can get away with it. Note that the incident in the CNN report took place in San Francisco, which for the moment, remains a may issue zone, meaning that the only people allowed to carry concealed weapons are certain politicians, celebrities, other well-connected and wealthy more equal than most citizens, and of course, any and all criminals that choose to do so.

Fortunately for the citizens of California, the 9th Circuit—the most liberal and most overturned in the nation—has recently ruled in Peruta v. San Diego, struck down California’s may issue law, ruling essentially that government may not prevent citizens from bearing arms, though it may regulate whether such bearing is done openly or via concealment. Because there is a split in circuits, the issue is now ripe for the Supreme Court, where it seems likely, considering Heller and McDonald, that they’ll solidify concealed carry as an explicit right under the Second Amendment.

It now seems that the citizens of California—in the near future—will have the option to protect their lives and the lives of those they love.  However, if they believe like smartphone zombies, there will be little practical difference for wanton killers like the monster in the CNN report.

Situational awareness is little more than being aware of one’s surroundings, thinking ahead, and asking “what if?” It consists of continually planning, using the environment, and being ready to not only to react to potential danger, but to recognize its approach and to avoid it.

Obviously, anyone carrying a concealed weapon must always exist in what is know as “condition yellow,” a relaxed state of alertness extending one’s awareness far beyond one’s personal bubble of perhaps arm’s length. For an exposition of the awareness “color code” chart, if you will, and a somewhat more lengthy discussion of these issues, go here.

Fortunately, this is not difficult, but it takes practice and being in the instant.

“Being in the instant” is the antithesis of smartphone zombiehood (Zombiness?  Zombitude?).  It’s one of the first concepts I teach my students every year. It’s a very familiar concept to swordsmen and other warriors, for allowing concentration to lapse for even a second can cause the immediately cessation of consciousness—for good. One must be absolutely focused, aware of everything around them, but allowing the mind to be empty, capable of action beyond reaction. This goes beyond merely paying attention, but that’s on the path, and the path continues while life endures.

Learning how to pay attention, to be in the instant, is a constant struggle, but one does improve, and each level gained adds to the vibrancy and enjoyment of life, for most of us wander around in something of a fog, missing substantial portions of our own lives. Few devices contribute more to a lost, unexamined life than the smartphone.

Consider that from the moment we are born, we lose—on average—1/3 of our lives—to sleep.  One can argue that sleep is necessary to mere existence, and so it is, but time spent in sleep is lost to us for any other pursuit. If we live to be 90, we will have spent fully 30 years unconscious. How much more of our lives are we willing to lose caught up in video games, texting, chat rooms, and other pursuits confined to the vast universe of our palms?

It’s a matter of choice. Be a smartphone zombie, allowing hours to pass oblivious to the world around us, or a living, breathing being participating in the world and ready and able to end any threat to that participation?

Of course, without the freedom to choose to protect our very lives, we may as well be smartphone zombies. Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the people.” Electronic technology has overtaken him. Isn’t it ironic and wonderful that centuries old technology—firearms—provides the means to secure not only political freedom, but the impetus to awareness and truly participating in our own lives?

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.