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Aim For The Head: Max Brooks On Zombies And Coronavirus

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Everything you need to know you can learn from zombies. Author Max Brooks pretty much laid out a lot of what we're been dealing with during this coronavirus pandemic in his novel "World War Z" that came out in 2006. He will have a virtual panel at this year's Comic-Con@Home called "Zombies and Coronavirus: Planning for the Next Big Outbreak." Brooks says of his panel, "People can expect to hear us discuss this real plague that we're dealing with. But through the metaphor of zombies, because the best tool of education is pop culture." His panel is at noon on July 24 but the YouTube link will remain on the Comic-Con Channel even after the convention ends, which allows anyone to watch the discussion any time. We also discuss his new book "Devolution." I know this is not cinema but it is zombies, which I love, and Brooks is the son of filmmaker/comedian Mel Brooks and film actress Anne Bancroft so there is a cinema connection!

In addition to his writing, Brooks holds duel fellowships at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the Modern War Institute. Check out a podcast that aims for the head.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Zombies are a great metaphor for this pandemic because they spread just like a play. You have issues of infection, you have issues of protecting your loved ones. You also have big issues like a zombie plague shutting down the economy. People fearing for their livelihoods, as well as their lives. Unlike other horror monsters, which tend to be very small and isolated and intimate zombies are big. And so

Speaker 2: 00:26 That's right. Like I've been saying for years, everything you need to know, you can learn from zombies today. I'll be talking with max Brooks, author of world war Z and the new book devolution we'll discuss Sambisa Corona virus, Bigfoot and comic con at home.

Speaker 1: 00:54 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:54 Welcome to another episode of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast. I'm Beth Mondo. As a fan of zombies, I have to confess and love max Brooks because not only is he a great writer, but he gets how zombies are the perfect blank slate for social commentary. Something that George Romero established with the film that defined the modern zombie night of the living dead

Speaker 1: 01:29 [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 01:31 Brooke says world war Z perfectly predicted a lot of what is currently happening with the coronavirus pandemic. And he'll be hosting a panel called zombies and Corona virus planning for the next big outbreak because Corona virus forced Comicon to cancel its physical show for the first time in its 50 year history, the panel will be online as part of comic con at home. The good news is anyone can attend the panel for free and you don't need a badge. And the panel will be up on the Comicon YouTube channel even after the convention ends on July 26th. I know I've been straying from film a bit in the past few episodes, but in addition to loving movies, I love pop culture and how it can be a useful tool in spreading ideas. Plus Brooks is the son of filmmaker and comedian, Mel Brooks and film, actress, and Bancroft.

Speaker 2: 02:21 So there is a cinema connection. I need to take one quick break and then I'll be back with my interview with author max Brooks, max. So to start with, I just want to say that when the pandemic hit, my family kept meeting on zoom and we wanted to have a book to read for our family book club. And of course I suggested world war Z. I got voted down by all the academics and they chose Albert [inaudible] the plague, which is also fitting, but I felt like everything I needed to know about our pandemic current pandemic was in your book. And I saw that you were by a number of major

Speaker 3: 03:00 News outlets at the time. How did it feel to have written that and to kind of have it be so spot on for what was happening?

Speaker 4: 03:12 It felt disappointing. And, um, I guess very upsetting because I didn't really set out to predict the future. But what I did was draw on the past and disasters tend to come in very predictable cycles. So finding the patterns of disaster is a constant, no matter what time we're living in, because we're still people. Cause it doesn't matter where, and when we exist, we still exist as, as homo-sapiens with the same thought processes and emotions. And we tend to deal with disaster in a very predictable way. So of course I was always hoping that we would have done a better job this time around this is probably, I mean easily, the largest Homeland disaster in my lifetime.

Speaker 3: 04:04 I really feel like pop culture can always teach us a lot of things. What do you wish that maybe politicians or the general public could have learned from your book?

Speaker 4: 04:13 Look, this is why I write what I write you. You mentioned earlier that instead of reading my book, the academics in your circle, how we're reading Alvera Kendall, this is the problem with academics. This is why we are where we are. There is a massive gap between those in the know and the rest of us, the experts are trapped in a feedback loop of intellectual incest and they have lost the ability to communicate what the public needs to know. The voter, the taxpayer, the boss, my two think tank jobs, the Brent Scowcroft center for strategy and security through the Atlantic council and the modern war Institute at West point have shown me that we have a cultural divide as wide as the grand Canyon between the sheep dogs and sheep liked me. So what do we do? How do we educate the voters? How do we grow a thinking critical electorate that will take care of itself? Well, one way is pop culture. And I don't mean literally high literature. I don't mean the stuff of academia. I mean, what regular schmucks like me would read or watch or listen to popular culture because we need to engage the populace. That is why I write what I write. That is why I write the way that I write, because what I'm trying to do is talk about these big, important issues in a way that somebody like me would not only understand, but might also be interested in.

Speaker 3: 06:12 So in reaching that populace comic con seems to be a great way to do that. And this year you have a panel on zombies and Corona virus planning for the next big outbreak. So who are the other people on the panel with you and what can people expect from this?

Speaker 4: 06:29 Well, I'm not going to even pretend to introduce the experts on the panel and all their credentials. Uh, what I will say is our model, I think is, is it could be a very successful model because it's a fusion of people who understand the facts and then people who can communicate those facts. And that's what we're talking about on our panel. We're talking about coronavirus, we're talking about real virology. We're talking about public health because public health can be very different than medicine or science. Public health is really about mass psychology. And how do we engage the public with all these facts? So we're going to have a very lively discussion about what we're facing here and what do we do about it? Because especially in a pandemic, it's got to start from the ground up. And the problem is we've been, we've been hammering away at the experts in this country for too long and the experts have retreated. And therefore here we are, and we don't even know what to do. And certainly in my lifetime, I've seen two of the most important elections be lost by the smart person who can't talk to the person who can talk, but can't think

Speaker 3: 07:51 Talked about the stages of a pandemic. So explain what those are.

Speaker 4: 07:55 Initially, you have, uh, the great denial and this is a very, it's a very common thing. This was the middle ages. When the plague would come into villages, people would say, well, I'm a good Christian. Uh, it's not going to hurt me. It happened in my childhood with AIDS. Well, I'm not gay. I'm not an Ivy drug use. I'm not a Haitian. Can't happen to me. Uh, same thing with this, you know, Ooh, I'm young, I'm strong. Uh, it's like the flu. It's going to go away. It's a hoax, blah, blah, blah. Can't affect me. Right. Denial. And then you have a tipping point. Uh, and that would be say in the middle ages, when the local priest would get sick, Oh my God, if he can get sick, we can all get sick. It happened, uh, in a, with AIDS. When somebody like magic Johnson got HIV and it's happening now, it happened now where the virus just exploded, exploded across the country. And we've, we've had two great panics. The first was in the beginning. Oh my God, it is, we can't stop it. It's rolling out of control. We got locked down and, but we still had enough denial mixed in, well, the weather's going to get warm. Don't worry whether it's going to take care of it. Well, it's a hundred degrees where I am right now. And I don't see that killing any virus.

Speaker 3: 09:13 You've also talked about the role that fear or panic can play in it in a pandemic. And that it's just as infectious as the virus itself. And how does that complicate the situation?

Speaker 4: 09:24 Well, of course, panic always does more damage than the actual problem. And that's in everything. That's in war. That's an economic recession or depression. When Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear, but fear itself, he wasn't just being flowery and poetic. He was trying to communicate a basic fact, which is, Hey America, there's really nothing wrong. We're just afraid to engage in the economy. If we all just got out there and bought and sold and spent and invested, we could beat this, but the fear is holding us back in something like this. Panic has the potential to kill more people than the actual disease. Now that has not been the case in the beginning. I thought it was. I thought when I started to see people, you know, get in fights over toilet paper, I thought, here we go, food riots have started. But so far we've been pretty good at keeping our panic in check.

Speaker 3: 10:17 You recently wrote a comic called germ warfare.

Speaker 4: 10:20 There they are everywhere in the food. We eat the water. We drink the air we breathe. They cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are the microbes, the bacteria, the viruses, and while most are harmless or even helpful, the dangerous ones have killed or crippled more human beings than all the Wars in history. For most of human history, we had no idea where diseases came from or that microbes even existed. So cures ranged from utterly useless to absurdly harmful bleeding, leeches, drilling holes in the head.

Speaker 3: 11:10 How did that come about and why, why did you want to write that? What was kind of your goal?

Speaker 4: 11:16 Well, initially I, as, as part of my duties at the modern war Institute, I wrote an article on Zika. Remember when Zika was coming through, once again, that's the them disease. I'm not a pregnant woman. I'm never going to get pregnant. What do I care? And Congress was dithering when it came to funds to protect us all from Zika. And so I wrote an op ed saying, listen, your job is to protect us. And you've spent trillions of dollars trillions since nine 11 to protect us from a terrorist, watching a nuclear attack. Well, here's an actual threat right here on our shores that could kill people. What are you doing about it? What if Zika had started in a lab because a germ weapon is the exact same thing as a natural virus, the effect is the same. You get sick, you die. That caught the attention of the blue ribbon, bipartisan biodefense panel. And those are people like Tom Ridge and Donna Shalala and Joe Lieberman. And they asked me to come up to Capitol Hill to take part in their first hearing. Cause what they're trying to do is protect us from the next round of germ warfare.

Speaker 4: 12:29 And I noticed all the experts speaking there, wasn't a, uh, public outreach expert. And I said, what I'm saying to you, uh, that if you don't find ways to communicate what we're discussing here in this room, it's not gonna make any difference. So we put our heads together and we called out bearer Kemo wasn't available. So plan B was to write a comic book and try to reeducate the public about the history of germ warfare, because it's been happening since the beginning of civilization, since people in antiquity were dipping arrows into manure and blood to cause infection. Uh, when the Mongols catapulted plagued bodies over castle walls and world war II, the Japanese had a massive bio warfare program. Uh, while we were developing our Manhattan project, they actually were dropping plague bombs on China. And to this day, we don't know the casualties. We suspect in a hundred thousand and possibly a million debt. When you talk

Speaker 3: 13:35 About world war Z and also your own personal way of looking at things, you've mentioned how you look to connections and that's something like climate change, isn't merely an environmental issue. It can turn out to be something else. Same like a zombie outbreak is not just about the virus. It's about a lot of other things. So talk about that kind of approach to looking at these problems.

Speaker 4: 13:56 Well, I, I first started to think about these issues critically when I wrote zombie survival guide, because I thought, well, what if there were really zombies out there and how would I protect myself? And obviously I start with physical defense. You go to the George Romero night of living dead. Uh, okay. The coming for the farmhouse. Do you go in the basement or do you stay upstairs? Neither go up the stairs, break the stairs behind you. They can't climb. You're safe, but wait a minute. Now you're safe. What about dehydration? Starvation, malnutrition accidents, infection, regular disease. What about all these other things? Because I realized that, uh, most people, if zombies were real, would not die from contact with zombies, they would die from what the military calls second and third order effects because the greatest threat is to chew through the threads that keeps society together.

Speaker 4: 14:56 This is wonderful. First-world safety net that we all take for granted now of plumbing and sewage and refrigeration and vaccines. What's going to happen when the zombies break all that. And we're back in the middle ages. So starting along that line of thought brought me to world war II, which was big picture thinking, big strategic thinking, how do you fight a war? Because most people will not dive direct to enemy contact. And that took me to the modern war Institute and it took me to the Brent Scowcroft center and it really has affected everything I've written, which is seeing the connections, the big picture, because like you said, an environmental crisis is not just about dead polar bears. It's about millions, possibly billions of people not being able to feed themselves, which will crash into possibly their culture, uh, which will then become economic, which will then turn violent. And before you know it, you've got Wars on your hands. So that's how I look at problems. I look at the big picture and then I try to find a way of communicating that big picture. Uh, be it zombies, uh, even Minecraft or the new book Bigfoot. There's a great pop culture. Interesting, fun way to get people to think about the big picture.

Speaker 3: 16:21 Well, cause I was going to say it's difficult. You know, we've got people who have a 240 character, Twitter capacity or 32nd sound bytes on the news and making connections is a very complex kind of idea. And it seems like that's very hard to get people to think about that because it's not as tangible as like, Hey, I'm okay. I'm not seeing any problems.

Speaker 4: 16:46 Yup. It is hard. It is hard, but it's not impossible. In fact, we used to be really good at that in world war two, we were the best in world history at harnessing the power of storytelling. Our government reached out to Hollywood and said, listen, we were in the fight of our lives and our people are going to have to serve and sacrifice and change everything. And we need you to explain why even Walt Disney won't come here. Yeah. We know you love Hitler, but I'm sorry. You're going to have to, you actually have to talk about why he's the enemy. And we did that and we had a great president who was a great communicator. Franklin Roosevelt. When you talk about it being difficult, he know how to do it. Even before we got into the war, he tried to sell Lend-Lease the idea of loaning or basically giving weapons to the British, to fight the Nazis. How are you going to do that? And he said, listen, if my neighbor's house is on fire, I loaned him my garden hose. So he puts the out before the fire spreads to my house. And then when the fire is out, I want my hose back simple. And he was derided by the intelligentsia, the academics as talking like a child and you know what it worked and Lenley's went through and we gave the British a fighting chance

Speaker 3: 18:12 A little bit about your background. I mean, what led you to be this kind of person who can write pop culture books, like world war II, but also be part of the modern war Institute. I mean, it seems like very disparate things coming together. And what did you study in school or what's kind of your background for this?

Speaker 4: 18:31 A lot of this came starts with my dyslexia. I'm painfully dyslexic. So there's nothing wrong with that. But there is when you are educated in the late seventies, early eighties under the Prussian model, which most of us are still educated under. And what I mean by the Prussian model is memorization. And then time to regurgitation of facts. That is the industrial model of education. And my brain just wasn't wired for that. So school got in the way of my education. So I was, I was cursed and blessed with this curiosity. I wanted to learn about the world, but I wasn't getting anything from school. So I had to learn through entertainment and I learned through star Trek. I learned through Twilight zone. I learned through Tom Clancy books first time ever read for pleasure. The first time I ever had the guts to pick up a book and sit in a corner and read was, I was 16 red Hunter Rocktober.

Speaker 4: 19:26 And thank God Clancy was like me. Clancy wanted things to be realistic. He did his homework. So I walked away from his books feeling smarter, same way with star Trek. It's all based on real science. A Twilight zone was all morality, plays everything. I read my God, Robert Heinlein. I learned more from him than I probably ever did from any of my professors. And I sure as hell learned more from the genius of comedy of standup comedians than I did in any economics course. You want to break down the basic premise of the wage slave versus the owner of the means of production. Well, you can waste six months of your life or you can listen to one Chris rock joke who says, Hey, I'm not talking about rich. Talking about wealthy. Shaq is rich. The white man who signs his paycheck, that's wealthy. And so from all of this, I knew the kind of writer I want it to be. And so when I went to college, I studied history. And even in grad school, I studied obsolescence, which is film production. Everything I learned was obsolete. And then I just started to write and I knew the kind of writer I wanted to be, which was Tom Clancy. So I had to just do years and years of intense research in order to make my work grounded in facts. You mentioned

Speaker 3: 20:48 Your new book, a devolution, which is about Bigfoot,

Speaker 4: 20:52 Big foot destroys town. That was the title of an article I received not long after the Mount Rainier eruption. I thought it was spam. The inevitable result of so much online research at the time I was just finishing up what seemed like my hundredth op-ed on Rainier, analyzing every facet of what should have been a predictable and preventable calamity. Like the rest of the country. I needed facts, not sensationalism. Staying grounded had been the focus of so many op-eds because of all Rainier's human failures, political, economic logistical, it was the psychological aspect. The hyperbole fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people. And here it was again right on my laptop screen, big foot destroys town. Just forget it. I told myself the world's not going to change overnight. Just breathe, delete, and move on. And I almost did, except for that one word, big foot,

Speaker 3: 21:59 I only got to read a small excerpt that they sent me. So I didn't get through the whole book yet. But tell me, tell me about the project. And it does seem like you're trying to bring that same kind of level of realism to big foot that you brought to zombies in world war II.

Speaker 4: 22:14 Yeah. What I'm trying to talk about in devolution is our overreliance on technology specifically technology without a backup plan, because that's, that's where, uh, the great tech minds of our, of this new century are going there. They're moving fast and breaking things and they're not in considering what could go wrong. That's one theme. Another theme is, uh, urban people trying to anthropomorphize nature and put our own sense of what we think nature should be without respecting it. Because I don't think you can save this planet, uh, the natural balance of this planet until you get to know it first and start to play by its rules as a guest in his house. But if I did all this as a, as a Ted talk or a series of op EDS, or just a straight out book, what would read it? I would either bore people to death, piss them off or scare them away. But if I reach back to my childhood and use one of my deepest, darkest childhood fears, Sasquatch as a vessel for these ideas, then I can take readers on a great ride. And before they know it, they've learned something.

Speaker 3: 23:30 So devolution is your newest book. Tell me a little more about,

Speaker 4: 23:35 Well, the, the book begins in the high tech high end eco community of green loop, uh, nestled in the cascade mountains. And these are not off the built the hippies. Uh, this is the grid. Uh, this is telecommuting to work. This is drone deliveries of your groceries. Uh, this is all the modern technology, allowing people to live with the comforts of the upper East side of Manhattan, but while still living in the pristine, beautiful wilderness, uh, it's the model for the future. It's the green revolution through technology and it works until Mount Rainier erupts. And this community is not only cut off. It's forgotten because the eruption blows out in the other direction towards Seattle and they're outside the blast zone and they're out of groceries and winter is coming and these highly paid highly educated David Sedaris fans don't know how to change a light bulb. And that's not the least of their problems because the eruption has also driven a pack of very large, very hungry Sasquatch creatures away from their traditional foraging ground. And they have to stock up on food for the winter as well. And they come up against green loop, which to them essentially looks like a pen of sheep. So if you are going to distill my book into one sentence, it would be IRA, glass and Fran Liebowitz versus big

Speaker 5: 25:05 Journal entry. Number seven, October 6th, animals. They're everywhere. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits. I get little guilt shivers. Whenever I see rabbits look over at me, like they know I helped chop up their sister, their deer too. I've seen half a dozen. I can see their ribs. They look thin, hungry and nervous. All the animals seem skiddish. Three times I watched them freeze. Every single one, like someone hit pause on a movie and they all stared back in the same direction toward Rainier. At first I thought it might be something with the volcano. Animals are more sensitive to that stuff, right? Or how's pet supposed to know when an earthquake is coming. It didn't have anything to do with rainy or, I mean, nothing else happened each time they froze or they afraid of something besides the volcano, they're all moving in the same direction. Migrating. It looks like away from the eruption at the freezing are they being okay? I just had to stop before writing that word. It sounds melodramatic, but pursued. How far back does your fascination with big foot

Speaker 4: 26:21 Go? It goes back to when I was about six, maybe eight years old, uh, in the late seventies, early eighties during the height of the first Sasquatch craze, when all these fo Bigfoot documentaries were coming on TV and scaring the hell out of me. And I was always fascinated by it. And I was wanting to write a big foot book, but like all my books, I wanted to ground it in reality. So I went deep into the research, not just of the Sasquatch lore, but I wanted to study real primatology, real apes, because if Sasquatch did exist in my mind, it's nothing more than a species of great apes living in North America. So I had to study that I had to study the technology of green loop. How would an eco community really function? I had to study a real vulcanology how Mount Rainier would really erupt.

Speaker 4: 27:06 And it will someday the USDS has confirmed that. So a lot of book learning, a lot of talking to experts, but also a lot of hands on. I actually had to go to the area where I pinpointed really to see if my characters could walk out and let me tell you, they can't even walk in it's that punishing without a road it's brutal terrain. Uh, and I even had to make the kinds of weapons that my characters have to make just to see if it could be done, because remember these people, uh, they're intellectuals, they're weapons are wit, uh, so they've got to make physical tools to protect themselves.

Speaker 3: 27:43 Well, you mentioned that that was one of your fears. And I'm curious, how do you view your relationship to horror in the sense like I've interviewed people like Clive Barker and you know, he doesn't seem troubled by nightmares, but you seem to draw on kind of your own personal fears to fuel these stories that you're doing.

Speaker 4: 28:02 Oh yeah, no, I'm, um, I always write for me and I always read about things that scare me. Uh, but that being said, uh I'm I was sort of calling myself an anti horror person because whenever I see horror films or later in life, when I was actually reading her, uh, I was always thinking of how would I survive? So I was always trying to solve the problem. I'm a problem solver. You know, I don't look at horror the way my very first zombie movie, it was Italian zombie movie where everybody just got killed. I'm not, I'm not that I'm George Romero's proteges will not protege. I'm his student, I'm his disciple. George Romero set up a series of rules. Figure them out. You survive, make bad choices. You die, which guess what? That is life. So I'm always trying to put a hopeful, spin on everything I write and hopefully people get scared, but hopefully they also are hopeful.

Speaker 3: 29:01 Well, you bring them towards Romero. And do you think the fact that he invested the first kind of modern zombie film, the night of living dead with the sense of a social conscience, do you think that kind of has colored the genre ever since then? And, and zombie seemed to be this perfect blank slate to deal with so many things,

Speaker 4: 29:21 You know? Yes and no. I think that, I think more so than not the people that follow George, uh, don't listen and don't get it. And they just see the Gore and the violence and maybe throwing a little sex to titillate. Um, but they don't get the deeper meaning and they don't get the, what George was trying to do was hold up a mirror for ourselves. But some people do, some people fall directly in his footsteps like Edgar Wright and Simon peg, and gave us, I think one of the greatest, not zombie films, but films of the decade, which is Shaun of the dead, which was the British version of clerks.

Speaker 6: 30:00 Do you ever think modern life is not for you? You do the same dead end job every day. There's no I in team, but there is an I in PI and there's an eye in meat pie. The anagram of meat is team.

Speaker 4: 30:17 I think that was genius. It was insightful. And it taught us a lot about this generation of Britons, but it did it through a zombie story.

Speaker 3: 30:27 So for you, do you think that zombies are scarier than a virus? I mean the sense of a zombie, something you could see coming at you, but a virus is this invisible thing to the eye and people who can carry the virus may not show any symptoms, which do you find kind of scary or for you?

Speaker 4: 30:43 I think the zombies can be a perfect, um, zombies can be a perfect metaphor for a virus because to me the fast zombie is something like Ebola, which is so scary. It provokes a response when Ebola hit in West Africa a few years ago, it was so obviously terrifying that we marshaled the entire resources of the United States and sent the U S army to West Africa to hit that virus head on. And we want the SLOs zombie, the zombie that you can underestimate that you can blow off is this virus that we're facing right now because in order for a plague to be successful and be that plague to be airborne or waterborne or walking on two legs, it must have baked into its strategy, the ability to slip under our radar. That's why my zombies are always slows zombies because initially they have to be underestimated. The same thing with this virus.

Speaker 3: 31:48 Now, a lot of your book, a lot of world war Z is based on history in terms of your drawing on things that have happened in the past to kind of be predictive of what happens in this Somby apocalypse. Why do you think we are so unable to learn from history?

Speaker 4: 32:05 Honestly, I think one of the reasons that we're unable to learn from history is it's, uh, is it's not being taught better. And I'm sorry, I'm sorry to say that I'm a history major and some of my best professors were historians and I love historians, but for every amazing, interesting, insightful historian that I've met, I've just met a lot of, um, boring schlubs who just go through the motions and they teach us the, when the, where, and the whole and the, but they don't teach the why they don't make it human. They don't connect our hearts to the hearts of those who came before us. And I know that because I've been lucky enough to have history teachers who have done that from high school through college, whenever I've had a professor who has allowed me to walk in the shoes of those who came before me, I realized, wow, we're the same.

Speaker 4: 33:09 And the problems we're facing now, the problems that they've faced. And if we can learn from them, we can save ourselves the death and destruction that he fell down. But that takes a high quality of history teacher. And personally I would, and I wouldn't just go in college. Cause I think for a lot of people at the time you get to college, it's too late. I would start early. Should I start in kindergarten? I mean, personally, I think, uh, I think we need to overhaul the teaching system because too many teachers are not taught to actually teach. And what I mean is they know the facts, but they don't know how to reach these hearts and minds. And I would, I would raise up the profession and I would pay them a decent living wage for God's sakes and make teaching an exciting, attractive profession. So you can live a good life and still teach because it's one of our most important jobs. And I see too many teachers, we treat them like soldiers, they get shitty pay and they get no support and their budgets are always being cut and they're trying so hard and they're always being sabotaged. So I would put the resources behind our education the same way I would put it behind our national security

Speaker 3: 34:40 And talking about connections. What do you see this pandemic connecting to in terms of something in the past? Is there something, you know, early on, there were some comparisons made to the Spanish flu, but there were some, you know, scientists said, well, that's not really the same, but is there something we can look to in the past to give us some sort of direction, how to move forward now?

Speaker 4: 35:02 Well, I think that the, the best example we can look to is the plague of my childhood, which was AIDS. Uh, there's still no cure. And it took too long, far, far, too long for any kind of effective treatment. And far too many people died unnecessarily, but what turned it around was not some miracle of science. What turned the corner on this horrific blight was social consciousness. It was the people, it was changing our behavior and going from free love to safe sex and starting to understand what were the transmission parameters of AIDS? How do we protect ourselves? Uh, there was a massive public education program in the United States in the 1980s. And I was part of it. I was educated by that C a recoup, our surgeon general mailed out a pamphlet to every single American home to educate every single American, the facts about AIDS. Why can't we do this now, if we had a national education program about this virus, about this Corona virus, we'd stop. It. It's that simple. We do not need a vaccine. We do not need an effective treatment. We do not need a magic bullet. We just need everyone to do their part.

Speaker 3: 36:34 Well, and then additional connections. Cause you had mentioned, I listened to one of your talks that you had done, I think at the Naval war, um, Academy. Uh, but you talked about connections in terms of one thing turning into another. And in this case it feels like the pandemic with people sheltering at home and not having the same sort of distractions that they would have otherwise connected to George Floyd's death and going out to protest. So what kind of connections do you see in that realm of how we're at the point we are now?

Speaker 4: 37:11 Well, I used to try to predict the future. Exactly. It would make me a liar or an idiot. Uh, but I will say that you can see the potential second and third order effects of this plague. Uh, it's obviously already massive unemployment. We're having a huge recession now, which could very well tip over into a depression. If we don't solve the plague, we can't get the economy going. It's that simple. First you solve the public health crisis. Then you solve the economic crisis. If you try to do economics before you do public health, it's all just going to blow up in your face as we've seen. So we see the economic problems, which in turn will create more social problems because you're going to have the merchants of hate, uh, on radio and television and the internet, trying to blame people, trying to sell blame.

Speaker 4: 38:05 Like it's a product, Oh, you're, you're poor. You lost your house. You can't make your mortgage payments. Well it's cause because those in power are giving it away to somebody else blame them. So you're going to see more divisions because there's a lot of money in dividing us. You're going to see a national security issues because for the first time in my lifetime, a little germ has taken a nuclear aircraft carrier off the high seas. I think you're going to see a reorganization of weaponry around the world. Certainly more attention paid to German warfare. I think if we don't get our act together and pull our heads out of our asses and not only solve the plague here at home, but help our friends and allies around the world, somebody else will. And that will be China. And this plague may end up being the greatest threat to democracy.

Speaker 4: 39:03 We've seen since world war two, because if the Western democracies, RNA are unable to prove that democracy can keep their people safe and healthy, the Chinese will prove that their new version of fascist capitalism will. So I think that the, the ramifications are, are endless. And do you have any final words or closing comments you'd like to make? I'm always hopeful. And I think that over the course of my writing and research into conflict, what I've learned is that Americans are at their best when things are at their worst and that's not, that's not pie in the sky. That's not kumbaya. That's just the facts. We talked earlier about history. What we can learn from history. What I have learned is that no country has made this much social progress. This fast as the United States of America. Our last president could have been a slave of our first president.

Speaker 4: 40:18 And I dare anyone to challenge me on that. As far as any other country, making that much progress, what Americans have going for us is our ability to reinvent ourselves. Uh, we're living a certain way one day and then something gets in our way and we have to change ourselves. We have to change our behavior. Uh, we have to change our, uh, our way of doing things without art changing our core values. And Americans are very good at that. We, we are a freedom loving democratic people, and yet somehow we have changed our behavior over the years in order to face new crises, we did it with world Wars. We've done it with depressions. We did it to end slavery. Nobody forced us to end slavery. We did it in our own civil war. Uh, we have given rights to people who in 1776 weren't even allowed to exist. So Americans have the ability to dig ourselves out of any hole. And that's why I am infinitely proud and hopeful when it comes to solving this

Speaker 1: 41:34 Present crisis.

Speaker 2: 41:35 Well, I want to thank you very much for taking some time and I'm really looking forward to your comments.

Speaker 1: 41:40 Thank you, Brad. You were very patient with me,

Speaker 2: 41:50 Brooks, author of world war II and the new book devolution. Thanks for listening to another episode of the cinema junkie podcast. I hope you'll head over to comic and check out Brooks's zombies and Corona virus panel as well as more than 300 hours of other diverse programming. So till our next film fix I'm Beth Armando, your residents, cinema junkie

Speaker 1: 42:53 [inaudible].

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Cinema Junkie

Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place.