Tuesday, May 14, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER POST: Zombie Apocalypse Now by Abbie Normal


Zombie Apocalypse Now


The Zombie Apocalypse has begun.

“Hold on!” you say. “I don’t see hoards of zombies wandering the streets, trying to eat me or turning me into one of them with a bite!”

Well, let’s take a look at just exactly what a zombie is.

The dictionary will tell you that a zombie is a reanimated corpse, whose origins are in Haiti and West Africa. This is the part of the world where “Voodoo” originated and made its way to Louisiana. The word is also related to a snake deity, a fetish (god) called “Kikongo Zumbi”. Also, a ‘Zombie’ is a tall mixed drink consisting of several kinds of rum, liqueur, and fruit juice which, I must admit, sounds delicious.

This is not the kind of zombie that we have come to know-and-love in our U.S. of A. and not the kind of zombie I’m talking about here. Our popular culture has developed the notion of the zombie as a person who has been infected with something that kills them, until they get up again and start moaning and biting everything. They are dead in the sense that all higher reasoning has ceased and their basic bodily functions have ended. So, no choice, no heartbeat, no lung, kidney nor liver function, but in some mysterious way (that is contagious) their lower brain and spinal columns have reanimated their limbs to propel them to attain nourishment which their bodies don’t need since they are post-mortem. The lower brain’s instincts compel our zombies’ bodies to consume needlessly and mindlessly.

Remind you of anyone you know?

The popular zombie has replaced most of our monsters such as the Werewolf, the Vampire, and the Alien. A myriad of variations on the zombie theme have been the central focus of many movies and TV shows. Nationally, people have organized ‘Zombie Walks’ and even the CDC has recently used the zombie apocalypse as a matrix to demonstrate how to respond to a pandemic or devastating natural disaster. Zombies are at once, scary and fascinating to us.

The scary part is obvious; they’re hopelessly dead, decaying, and they want to eat you. If they don’t eat you, their bite will turn you into one of them… just wandering, decaying, unthinking, and hungry. The fascination with and elaboration on the zombie motif is of more subtle importance, but I’ll come back to that after I make the argument that you are in fact, a zombie.

Firstly, you are a zombie because you should be dead. If you’re reading this, then you have likely been vaccinated or suffered an illness in your lifetime which would have likely resulted in your death were it not for the current state of medical science and basic sanitation. Medical science has inoculated you but it has also taught you to wash your hands with soap and water, and to cover your mouth when you cough. Such basic sanitation is the single greatest boon to human survival and propagation that the world has yet seen. That your body didn’t at some point actually suffer real death is irrelevant. You are re-animated in some way; something, somewhere, somehow, would’ve otherwise shut your little life down but yet here you are, and so you qualify as the living dead.

Secondly, you are a zombie because you crave that which you do not need. Addicts don’t need Heroin, Crack, nor Booze. Fat people and cops don’t need doughnuts, Gamblers don’t need Blackjack, and as horny as you may be, you do not need porn. Even though you may not crave any of the above, the fact remains that all you need is drinking water, nourishment, shelter, and a social group to cooperate with in order to secure such things. Drinking water doesn’t need plastic bottles, nourishment doesn’t need genetic modification, shelter doesn’t need a mortgage, and social cooperation doesn’t need ‘American Idol’. You may not crave drugs, nor fat, nor porn to get you through the day, but you do need whatever it takes to make that mortgage or rent payment on time. That shelter you make payments on, enables everything and anything else. Participation in debt, addiction, and pop culture makes you a mindless consumer.

Thirdly, you are a zombie because you have no higher reasoning. You are incapable of real joy, fear, love, nor hate, and you have abandoned both doubt and faith. You are cranky and absent until you get your first cup of coffee, your first cigarette, your first happy pill, your first drink, your first bong hit… your first fix. From there, you continue to self-medicate throughout the day. Without these, who’s to say who you really are, and what sorts of decisions you might truly make? If you have any higher reasoning left after you’re properly drugged, it is exposed relentlessly to commercial imagery, which further serve to marginalize whatever individual creativity and higher reasoning is left. So here you are, living the sad life you never imagined you would live. Your dreams of youth have been subsumed to the demands of bills. Before bed, you look in the mirror and lament your age. In the morning, you fight the crowds in order to stand in line for your coffee, then flip through a ‘People’ magazine which informs you of exactly who is more attractive than you and reinforces how shallow and worthless you are… especially since you still can’t afford that new Be-Am-Double-You that you always wanted. Every last emotion and thought you have left is channelled into an ever-changing mist of egotistical desire. You have no higher reasoning.

So, you are a zombie. You are a re-animated automaton with no higher reasoning, which mindlessly consumes for no reason.

I believe that we have become so culturally fascinated with the zombie because the zombie is us. We seem to be as less scared of them as we are deeply aware yet confused as to the extent to which we resemble them. I am not a zombie, or am I? It’s the rest of the world that appears to me to be zombified, but I may be infected. After all, the zombie affliction spreads by bites, and who is most likely to bite me? Most likely it is someone I know: my family, my friends, and my acquaintances are more likely to be around me, and therefore more likely to zombify me… or consume me. So I am in a sea of potential threats that could be my mom, dad, sister, brother, coworker, or even the guy running the hot dog stand I love so much. Everything familiar to me is a potentially lethal threat, if they turn zombie. The fear and the fascination present themselves simultaneously to the subconscious; the hickey nip my girlfriend gave me could turn me zombie like her and even though we’d both be zombies, we’d be incapable of loving each other anymore in the way we are accustomed. But if we keep holding hands and our credit cards don’t expire, maybe we could both still contribute to Black Friday.

What scares us most about zombies is nihilism: the futility and ultimate meaninglessness of human life. It’s easy to recognize the mindless automaton among us… or is it? The movie “Shaun of the Dead” illustrated how long it would take for the average person to recognize that the zombies walked among us, since their behavior is now so commonplace. My biggest laugh of that movie was at the end, when it had been determined that the undead could still serve a purpose doing menial work such as collecting grocery carts.

But I digress. Nihilism: meaninglessness, oblivion, The Void. What scares and fascinates us so much about zombies is that the zombie fate is an existential dead-end (pun intended). There’s no Rapture, no Revelation, no atomic oblivion. Where’s the justice, the retribution, the rationale, the intervention of a personal savior? How does the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ define the culmination of human consciousness through history? How does such an end to humanity define who we were?

The answer to the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ is that there is nothing but mindless, purposeless consumption, roving the earth forever and ever until shit runs out.

Remind you of anyone you know?

2 comments:

Tanya Savko said...

Perfect metaphor, Abbie! I love "Shaun of the Dead" as well :)

Eric Frost-Barnes said...

You know when you describe our mindless need for the consumption and ownership of shit "zombie-like" I feel like you're putting down good old fashioned zombies everywhere.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to buy some Crocs through Amazon...