Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rethinking Zombies

I used to believe there were bad people.  Bad groups.  Tea Party Folks.  Rich Suburbanites. Outrageous Coffee Shop Leftists.  Megachurch Leaders.  Then I began meeting people from these groups and seeing that they weren't stupid or ignorant or entirely misguided.  They simply saw the world differently from me.  This piece stands as a metaphor of that.

He stands before the fountain, makes a wish and pulls out a cup. He calls the concoction a “suicide,” and surrenders his taste buds to the random sample of corn syrup and coloring. His is a world of plastic fragments and vivid chemicals.

We cram into the plastic shell of the SUV and begin the journey of release. While other boys will be dressing as zombies and using extortion for free Fun Size Snickers, we’ll be celebrating the autumn equinox by breathing in the steamy vitality of life, recognizing the vapor of existence and the illusion of eternity forged in plastic.

He’ll cry.

I did the first time.

On some level, I still do. It’s just that surrounded by a hyper-macho group of men, tears are not even an option and within minutes of the Flesh Feast, I experience the paradoxical sense of losing and gaining, living and dying, destroying and creating.

Still, it will be harder for a child raised around pets and petting zoos and animated cartoons. He understands personification while losing the sense of person and he experiences animation without knowing the slightest bit about the animistic culture that shapes his own story.

He’ll sink his canines into the raw flesh and feel the steamy sanguine fluid dripping down his lips. He will be at once repulsed and intrigued and in the process he will know something about humanity buried under the pavement of the Magical Kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong. We won’t kill a human. We’re not murderers. Zombies aren’t canabalistic. We don’t go on murder binges and terrorize cities. In fact, we aren’t even a separate species from humanity. We are human.

I suppose some of that might have been true in the past. We would line up in rows and hunt an entire village. However, one must consider the cultural context. This was an age when Aztecs would sacrifice prisoners to their gods and Europeans would burn those who didn’t agree with their theology and slavery, rape and mass genocide were all fair game in war.

This was before the Age of Progress. We’ve found cleaner, more anticeptic ways of committing mass murder. Nowadays, we press buttons and hit targets and use drones, but I suppose shrapnel is simply a more evolved version of an arrow - one that allows the user to sit comfortably from a plush chair in an air-conditioned room, drinking Red Bull or stale coffee with fake creamer.

We’ve evolved.

Zombies, however, have not evolved. We still use our canines for cutting meat. I know it sounds primitive and upsetting that we hunt with our hands and suck the warm blood in the moment. Instead of thinking “backwards” and “primitive,” consider it “vintage” or “classic.” We’re organic. We’re into raw food. It’s just that we tend to go omnivorous and sometimes that means attacking large game. (Incidentally, no one seems offended by our society-wide salad binges)

You can fault us for eating meat that runs free range. I suppose if killing is wrong, then we are murderers. But the human body requires death. We are covered with bacteria. We inhale micro-organisms. You can’t go a minute without participating in the life cycle. So we’re all killers, I guess.

However, I miss the ethical argument that it’s better to eat meat that was once crammed into a tiny space and is now chopped up, days later, and placed on styrofoam and wrapped in cellophane. The Zombie culture doesn’t have quite the same affinity for petroleum-based products that one finds in most of the Western world.

If it were raw fish wrapped in seaweed, we would be trendy hipsters on the cutting edge. If it’s a wilderbeast and we’re attacking as a pack, well then it’s repulsive. Note to self: next time we attack a wildebeast, make sure that we don a flea market jacket, an ironic t-shirt and waver between self-loathing whining and sardonic comments about the world. Maybe we’ll play a vintage record and politely pull apart the animal flesh while discussing whether or not the Green Party is a viable option in this next election .

Or maybe we’ll just pump it full of phosphates and toss it onto the grill, cover it in some artificially-flavored corn syrup mix and then toss place it on a paper plate. I’m sure the earth will understand.

Another misconception is the intellectual capacity of the Zombie culture. This again stems from the inherent xenophobia and ethnocentricism of European missionaries. Our language is nuanced and layered in metaphor. Missionaries missed that, claiming we mindlessly grunted about in lined formations.

It takes awhile to grasp the gutteral sounds or to decipher the tonal language. In some ways, our language is actually more developed in the Latin-based languages that are all the rage in Europe. We have not only a second person plural (missing in English) but also a verb tense that allows for the second person to be addressed while removed from the first person. We also have verb tenses differentiating between definite, paradox, contradictory thoughts and congnitive dissonance. Layers. It takes awhile to comprehend the language.

Now, what about the myth of stealing the minds of humans and turning them into mindless walkers? It’s true that we are implored to “feast on the minds”

Yes, we believe in magic. We believe in a world surrounded by animism. Superstition, you call it. And maybe you are right. But we are under no illusion that the dots and ones and zeroes are the same as the flesh and blood terrestrial reality of community. We stare at the stars. You stare at a screen. Both of us believe in magic.

Perhaps the Zombie culture is indeed backward. Perhaps I am being ethnocentric in my own right. However, last time I checked, it is more inhuman to split apart and atom and blow away a city than to attack large game with our bare teeth.

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