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We are the zombies

I do not, if I'm honest, care much for zombies. They squick me. I'm not keen on anything which seeks to eat me alive: call me a coward, call me atavistic, but when it comes down to it, the idea of being ripped to pieces simply does not appeal. Nor would I wish that fate on others. As anyone who knows me well can attest, I'm just not keen on the whole being chewed on thing. Sharks? Beautiful creatures, in need of respect and protection. Alligators and crocodiles the same. But do I wish to share space with them? No, thank you. I will fight to protect their environments, but I will not get into that water. (Nor the swimming pool, until I've checked it thoroughly. And as for blue bedsheets... Well, let's just say that the marquis has a wicked sense of humour sometimes.)
And at least sharks and alligators would have a reason for eating me. They are living creatures, they need to feed. Zombies, in popular culture mode, not so much. The mass market zombie exists to create fear. It's a mindless, unreasoning thing, without scruple or thought or code, its sole function is to consume.
Which was, of course, the point George Romero was making when he filmed Night of The Living Dead all those decades ago. Across the western world, human volition, human agency, is stripped away by advertising and big business, replaced with desires for more possessions, more wealth, more for the self. They consume, therefore they are. It's a 70s vision of a world in which the culture of mending and making do was slowly being replaced by one of throw-aways and expensive, often false, short-cuts. Capitalism eats itself and looks for more.
And yet, even in the disillusioned 70s, Romero's films were cult, not mainstream. The vampire, the ghoul, the werewolf remained mainly in the realm of Hammer Horror and straight-to-video.
I don't know what changed. I'm not that clever. I don't have a clear-cut explanation for our twenty-first century Dawn of the Undead. And yet, and yet... Vampires and werewolves have minds and wills, can be spoken with, reasoned with, can be projected onto ourselves. Zombies? I'm not so sure. If the vampire is the secret lover and the werewolf the troubled misfit self, what is the zombie, that mind-stripped, ever-hungry, massed, unrelenting threat? What are we afraid of in our bubbles of things, our palaces of possessions? What lurks, just out of sight, trying -- or so we fear -- to steal our comfort? What haunts the heavy type of the tabloids?

The poor.
The immigrants.
The foreigners.
The stranger.
The have-nots.
The people who aren't like us.
The excluded.

They -- and it's always they, not us -- want our comfort. They want our privilege. They want homes and jobs and health care. They want food and clean water. They mass at the gates of the rich man's ghetto, on the steps of the corporation headquarters, on the refugee boats, at the soup kitchens and food banks, in the dole queues and on the street corners, hoping for their share. When they go through legitimate channels, we call them scroungers. When they reach out and take, we call them looters and thieves. When they ask why they can't have a share, we talk of deficits and boundaries, cuts and social necessity, responsibility and 'we're all in this together'. But we don't open the gates. Some of us want to, but are prevented by others with more power. Some of us stumble and are thrown out to join the mass outside. Many of us read the words of the red-tops and identify ourselves as the inhabitants of the mansions and the boardrooms, not realising that, to those who really do, we are just another type of danger, another hungry mob to be barred.
To be turned into demons. They are never counts or earls, those zombies. They aren't beautiful, they don't tug at our heartstrings. They're dirty and nameless, the mob, the crowd. They're the underclass of the undead world.
They're the underclass. The recent obsession with them speaks too closely, to me, to the fears that we are encouraged to feed, the interests we're encouraged to support, the image we're supposed to uphold -- that property is sacred, that rights are only for the few and that anyone new or different asking for help is out to eat our brains.
They're the midnight fear of big money, the Paris mob at the doors of Versailles, the poor asking for a fair wage and decent working conditions and decent treatment.
And popular culture -- that huge consumerist money-making machine that sucks in the beliefs and possessions of other places and peoples and times and turns it into Product -- popular culture gift-wraps that fear of loss of privilege, that fear of having to share, and transforms those asking for change into a mindless crowd that will eat our brains.
They're a metaphor. But they're no longer the anti-consumerist image Romero offered. That appealed to the few. This new version appeals to the many, to everyone who does not want to share, to help, to support healthcare and a social contract. This new version is the capitalist nightmare, that the poor might ask for some of the wealth, that immigrants might want to live next door. It's our fear of change, of difference, of loss of those things with which we keep ourselves safe. I doubt that any of the writers who write zombies currently have any of these things in mind when they right them. Most of them, indeed, seem to me to be concerned with ways of rebuilding society, of improving and reshaping it. But the zeitgeist, the ubiquity of zombies concerns me.
Because in the end, we are being told we are right to fear those things which differ from ourselves, we are right to label them dirty, dangerous, wrong. The words of the writer are overwhelmed by the weight, the mass of the cultural load.
And that is why I don't like zombies.

Skirt of the day: cream, black and white tiered.

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