To celebrate the return of "The Walking Dead," I'm finishing up the series that began with Kunstler and I discuss zombies and bags of dog poop and continued with Infidel 753 and I discuss zombies with a conversation Greer the Archdruid had with his readers and me about zombies in the comments to Men Unlike Gods.* It's also a continuation of a series I began three years ago with The Archdruid and his readers on zombies and More from the Archdruid and his readers on zombies, part 1. I wrote in the second "That was probably the first time zombies made an appearance on Greer’s blog, but it wasn’t the last" and then told my readers to stay tuned for more. Here it is, even though it took three years.
The story begins when one of Greer's readers asks a question about the zombie apocalypse that Greer ignores. I decide to answer for him.
Me: Steve T asked "On archetypes that emerge in the fantasies of a civilization– What do you make of the ridiculous popularity of the Army of the Dead/Zombie Apocalypse archetype?" That's a topic that popped up at least twice on the old blog. I saved the comment threads on the zombie apocalypse in two posts on my blog. I summarized most of the reasons in Zombies meet preppers on 'Fear the Walking Dead' Season 3: "the rural-urban disconnect, the fear of urban hordes ravaging the countryside, a lack of faith in progress, a not so subtle racism, and a desire to shoot their fellow Americans." I almost wonder if the producers and writers read those two blog entries of mine for inspiration.Greer could have been annoyed. Instead, he expressed gratitude.
Greer: Vince, thanks for this. I find zombies dreary beyond words, so am probably the last person to ask why they’re popular!I continued the conversation with Greer (I don't remember Steve T acknowledging me).
Me: You're welcome. You may find the American media conception of zombies boring, but I was converted years ago to paying attention to the phenomenon, enough that I have an entire category of posts devoted to the zombie apocalypse on my blog. Your readers seem to be interested in the topic, too. Just like the two other times I documented conversations in your comments section, once the subject came up, your readers ran with it. I am very tempted to respond to them, but I think I will learn more by reading (listening) than I will by typing (talking). In particular, the connections to poverty and famine are new ones to me. Instead, I will merely note that the person most responsible for the idea of the zombie apocalypse, George Romero, died on Sunday. May he rest in peace and not rise from the dead to eat us.Greer repeated that he found zombies boring, then changed the subject to George Romero and Christopher Lee.
Greer: Vince, oh, I know. I just find them so very dull! I was amused by the response to George Romero’s passing, though. It was reminiscent of what happened when Christopher Lee died — I heard a lot of jokes about how he’d be back from the grave in no time flat, having done so all those times before…His tactic worked. I started changing the subject with him.
Me: I can see why people would make those jokes about Christopher Lee, but my friends were hoping that his war record would finally be unsealed so they could find out all the operations against the Axis in which he participated. No such luck -- still a secret.That was it for my conversation about zombies, but it wasn't the end for the other readers leaving comments. Follow over the jump for them.
Here are the rest of the comments from Men Unlike Gods about the zombie apocalypse phenomenon. There are a lot of them; once someone brings up the topic, the readers go off to the races!
Jason says: “Watch the dreams and fantasies of a society and you can catch the foreshadowings of its future…”Jason should have embedded his links. I started with the first one, but couldn't find good places to do with the rest. Oh, well, at least I can read them and comment on them later.
Regarding the popularity of the zombie genre, I’ve long thought it was due to the ease of life in modern america combined with the post-war morality that made it wrong to think of anyone as ‘the other'(except nazis I suppose). Jack Donovan wrote an essay that captured my thinking on it rather well.
After reading this post though, and that painting from 1889… What if the popularity of the zombie genre has a much more straight forward meaning?
If [A]merica cracks up like Yugoslavia, which seems more and more inevitable as time goes on, and the fighting rages on for several years(which, considering how heavily armed we are thats more than possible*), that would cause a severe famine, and not just here in the states either.
Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding is that the US is the top exporter of agricultural products, with the Netherlands, Germany, and France making up the next three. If the american exports are taken off the market due to chaos at home a lot of people around the world will be going hungry.
And if war breaks out in europe, which also seems more and more inevitable for similar reasons, just those top four countries would mean more than $300 billion worth of food taken off of global markets.
If something like that lasts a couple years, a whole lot of humans will be starving and eating each other…
Clumsy corpse-like creatures that will eat you given the chance, that used to be people but aren’t anymore… and its oh, oh so easy to become one of them…
Considering america’s short history has never had a major famine, that today obesity is a larger problem here than going hungry, and many truly believe its either progress or apocalypse(usually so sudden they wouldnt have to actually experience it) if many were unconsciously sensing a massive famine coming it’s easy to see them imagining it as some sort of supernatural horror.
Not that Donovan’s ‘training-wheel tribalism’ isn’t part of it, I KNOW thats part of it.
*I once read that if you totaled up the number of rifles produced by every bel[l]igerent country in ww1 AND ww2 the total is still less than what [A]merican civilians currently own, and that we have an equal number of shotguns and handguns in addition to that… I can’t remember exactly where I read that but, I believe it. https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/more-on-how-many-guns-are-there-in-america-today/
Greer's responses to these comments were minimal. Case in point:
Greer's response: Jason, hmm as well. I certainly hope not.Oh, come on, there was a lot to unpack in his comment -- not that I'll do it now. Again, later, as "The Walking Dead" will be airing through April and "Fear The Walking Dead" during the summer.
radha says: I think the current interest in Zombies has to do with fear of poor people and of becoming poor or homeless. I see it as role playing of current trends –> a shrinking minority of hyper-clean odorless middle and upper class living in a safe gated communities, and the poor are frightening growing masses of crude and worthless people begging at their doorstep. We learn in zombie shows, there is no shame in killing or tossing aside these dirty monsters. As a life long part time worker with no benefits, I am acutely aware of being treated as disposable. Even as someone who works for idealistic non-profits/natural foods, I have distinctly felt a change in the last few years. I am worried the zombie trope is a prediction of the future for the poor majority.I referenced this as "the connections to poverty and famine." As for Greer,he just typed "Radha, that seems uncomfortably plausible to me."
Bogatyr gave a more thoughtful response, emphasizing the dehumanization inherent in the meme, something I agree with.
Bogatyr says:Greer's responded with "Bogatyr, an interesting hypothesis." At least he was positive, if curt.
@radha: “We learn in zombie shows, there is no shame in killing or tossing aside these dirty monsters”.
A friend recently shared a link to a story from 2011, about a Dubai-based company offering cruises off Somalia. The selling point that the customers could outfit themselves with all kinds of advanced weaponry, with which to mow down any pirates who attacked the boat (the yacht was designed to look attractive to pirates, who are of course mostly impoverished fishermen in that part of the world). Who knows, perhaps the business model will spread to other parts of the world? See gadling.com/2011/04/01/dubai-tour-company-offers-pirate-hunting-cruises-off-horn-of-afr/
Also @radha, JMG and others, re: zombies. Like many popular tropes, zombies reflect the fears of their times. The rise in popularity may of course be a response to the rise in the number of the poor. Recently, though, I’ve been wondering whether it isn’t about the dramatic increase in mental illness throughout the Western world. People in all kinds of jobs, professional as well as low–income, are trapped in jobs which give no satisfaction or autonomy, knowing their employer puts no value on them apart from their productivity, but which they don’t dare leave. Add that to social isolation, and life truly becomes a joyless curse. Add to that that – as I’ve seen – if someone suffering from acute stress or depression tries to talk about what they’re experiencing, even long-term friends will avert their gaze and stop calling: they’re afraid of ‘infection’. There are many, many zombies among us today, desiring and/or resenting others who are enjoying the fullness of life which they themselves are denied.
The conversation continued when Oilman2 responded to Bogatyr.
I don’t think it is that people are poor or have a crappy job. There are many poor people and many people in crappy jobs and they are not mentally ill. Poverty has been part and parcel of human existence since civilization began. Crappy jobs have always been and will likely always be – but you do get to walk away from a job after you get finished, even if you go back the next day and do it again.Oilman2 did a good job of picking apart Bogatyr's and radha's hypotheses up to here, but then he went off the rails.
While I don’t think this is an American-centric thing, I do think Americans have a proclivity towards depression, escapism and fantasy.
Americans have some very unrealistic expectations inculcated in their psyche, including many of them amalgamated in the frontier and explorer archetypes. We have been indoctrinated in school, home and via Hollywood with these expectations. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there isn’t much new “under the sun” to explore or conquer – we live on a finite, well known, watery ball in space. As JMG indicated, we have been heavily brow beaten into believing in self reliance and independence, which is not always a good thing when facing change and collapse. We do better in social groups, as that is how we evolved and did the entire civilization thing.
Equality is another dead end, as we are not born equal in any sense of the word, other than we are born of sperm and egg and on this planet. One look at the average IQ scores for each country will allay that misconception. One look at the variance in musculature or stature among all populations will further disabuse it. When we toss birthed social status into the mix, innate equality is decimated as a rational concept. Yet in America, this has been quite literally beaten into the consciousness. You can see this today, run to the extreme, in the social justice warrior tribe.I think Oilman2 would get along very well in Kunstler's comment section, particularly with Vlad/Janos. That is not a compliment, as Janos and others like him are why I haven't left a comment at Kunstler's blog since May, when I told his readers to make Star Trek and Star Wars themed cocktails and drink heavily.
My gut says there is a lack of spirituality or else a spiritual void that many Americans can’t seem to fill. Many have abandoned western religion and adopted the religion of atheism. Others espouse Christianity and yet are disenchanted in the extreme with the church being just another business model. Most are agnostic, and people living and thriving in agnosticism are also completely materialistic, as that is what is left when you do not believe in anything.
I think mental illness, drug dependence, fantasy escapism, sexual addiction and many other ills can be laid at the feet of agnosticism and/or atheism. If you believe in nothing more than what is in front of you, then you are left with the material world only.
I am not trying to offend anyone, or to hold up any religious belief. What I see is that without any belief in something other than the immediate physical world, then you are left with one thing – the physical world. And that is materialism.
I don’t think that is working out so well for humanity. And that may be why Americans are having such a tough time. Unrealistic expectations, no faith in anything or faith collapsing as they realize their religion is actually a business. And now their world is revealed to be made predominantly of bovine excrement every time they read or hear any news. I would say that could drive a person to drink or edge over into some aberrant behavior, if that is all one has in their world.
The final comment about zombies came from dropBear.
this is most interesting.Greer finally gave a thoughtful response to the implied question.
It would seem that in the past the combination of dominant arch[e]types first manifested itself in pop culture.
I wonder if the current wave of dreadfully boring and formulaic zombie and vampire novels and films
and the obsession with death in low brow music like a lot of heavy metal, have anything to say about our future.
Can’t wait to find out where you will take us with this series of posts.
DropBear, my take on zombies, for what it’s worth, is that they may have already peaked, On consideration, I think they were an expression of the fear the privileged classes had for what has now happened: the working poor lurching out of the economic grave to which neoliberal policies confined them, and shambling to the voting booth. As soon as the Left faces up to the fact that the Trump phenomenon was in fact a backlash against policies they supported — offshoring and automation of jobs, mass immigration to force down wages, not to mention the endless sneering putdowns the privileged 20% direct toward the people whose lives they’ve embittered — then it won’t be necessary to fantasize about zombies any more. (My guess is that that’ll happen in 2021, after the Dems go down to another self-inflicted electoral defeat and Trump begins his second term.)I can tell that Greer doesn't watch much television, or else he'd see what I see about the zombie apocalypse being a mass phenomenon with motivations coming from all classes, including the one he's trying to defend. He might see avoiding TV as a strength. When dealing with the real world, it probably is. When it comes to analyzing media, I think it's a weakness and he showed it in his comment.
On a more charitable level, he will probably be right for the wrong reasons. "The Walking Dead" will have concluded its tenth season in 2020 and will likely conclude its eleventh season in 2021. That might be long enough for the idea this time around. After all, "Jurassic Park" entered theaters in 1993 and the dinosaur trend lasted until "Jurassic Park 3" in 2001. After that, it was all downhill until "Jurassic World" returned two years ago. The same is likely to happen to zombies.
I've been avoiding writing about Trump because every other liberal blogger is doing so and I don't want to contribute to the man's narcissistic supply. However, Greer brought him up, so I have a cartoon for Trump and his zombie voters that fits Greer's hypothesis.
*No, TPM's readers on gun owners and the zombie apocalypse wasn't for the start of the current season of "The Walking Dead." That was for the end of the third season of "Fear The Walking Dead." I might have a more thorough post mortem of the season, including how my predictions panned out, later. Stay tuned.