Thursday, 1 June 2017

Zombies And Their Meaning

Over the past two decades Zombies have become a common villain in popular culture and it leads to the question, why? I'd like to put forward some ideas, but first I need to look at the history.

The word Zombie first entered the English language in 1819, in a book about Brazil, but as a word to describe the undead that comes from Haiti. Haiti is the western part of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, a former Spanish, then French colony. It is the worlds first Black Republic and the only country in the world that can trace it's independence back to a successful slave revolt. Unfortunately Haiti's history since independence has been just as sad as it's history as a colony. One thing that it can lay claim to is it's own religion, Voodoo. Between 1915-1934 Haiti was occupied by the US Marines and it is during this period that Zombies became known outside of Haiti.

A Zombie was a person who had died who was brought back to life to serve as a slave. Some say that the person was not dead but was drugged to make them appear dead and then their "corpse" is stolen from their grave and revived, again the purpose was so that they could serve as a slave. The idea that you could work hard all your life and then be denied eternal rest was greatly feared.

In the 1930's movies began to be made by Hollywood about Zombies, they were the living dead. If they were dead it was as if they still lived and if they were in fact alive it was a fate just as bad as death. In short it was a totally unnatural state. These Zombies are slaves without emotion or much independent thought, they exist to serve.

In 1968 the movie Night of the Living Dead was released and it changed how Zombies were seen, even through the word Zombie is never said. In the movie the dead, referred to as Ghouls, come back to life and begin attacking and eating or infecting the living. Made for $114,000 it went on to make $30,000,000 and it was the fans who began referring to the Ghouls as Zombies. Nearly all Zombies since have taken on the characteristics of the Ghouls in the Night of the Living Dead.

The next change didn't come until the 1990's with computer games and the rise of First Personal Shooters. Yes they started in the 1980's but they became very successful in the 1990's and this success had it's own problems. Some people complained about the violence in computer games, so some developers decided they needed something they could "kill" that no one could really complain about. First they tried Nazi's and then Zombies and it seemed to work, much of the criticism stopped. How could you complain about "killing" something that was already dead?

But here's the problem, Zombies are undead, that means that they were once alive, they were once living people, they are our ancestors. When Zombies attack they are attacking their own people. So when you "kill" a Zombie you are fighting against your own people, maybe even your own loved ones. And if you do not fight them they will eat you or if you survive they will infect you and make you a Zombie. Because of the fear of infection no one can trust anyone else, the only thing to fear is life and death, the undead and the living, no one and nothing can be trusted. Even in victory there is only defeat. Talk about alienation!

But doesn't alienation describe our society perfectly?

Liberalism seeks to cut us of from our ancestors and from our family, to alienate us from our base. It seeks to isolate us from our fellows, there is no such thing as Class solidarity anymore, there once was. The only thing we have to fear is life and death. Zombies and Liberalism have much in common.

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