Sunday, October 11, 2009

American Zombie

Hmmm, there's a lot of talk these days about the meaning of zombies in popular American culture. I don't see the mystery in it really. For one thing the zombie is clearly an offshoot vampire; which itself is most likely a kind of fictive re-imagining about cannibals; and cannibalism itself is largely ceremonial in its practice wherever it is still observed. What's it all about?

"The dead govern the living." - Auguste Comte

It is about the oppressive weight of following in the footsteps of those now departed or soon to be departed. It is the weight of culture when the way we've been doing things doesn't work anymore.

Here's the most obvious aspect of culture that doesn't really make sense anymore:

That's crazy offensive right? But is it really that far off the mark? Consider the following Bible quotes:

Acts 2:24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

John 6:53
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

Does it still seem so crazy to note that the Jesus myth closely resembles other myths that are largely accepted as absurd and almost humorous in their nature? Why should we set the Jesus myth aside for special treatment? Do you really believe in the myth that there is a father in the sky that will judge and care for you after you are dead? And I don't mean as a comforting thought that occasionally crosses your mind when you seek for some kind of continuity - or perhaps in a stressed out situation bargaining against death as you might in a foxhole - I mean truly believe it down to your core. Do you?

Well, I don't believe a word of it.

The stories collected in the Bible are an amazing product of culture. Biblical passages are at turns mythic, lyrical and sometimes even shockingly absurd. Maybe there really aren't great justifications for people turning into a pillar of salt, being oppressed like Job because of a wager between God and the Devil nor for a man like Noah to have drunken sex with his daughters. Those stories are mere myths. Stories passed from fathers to sons until they took on the hard basis for western culture. But that doesn't mean we have to believe in those silly stories today. The Song of Solomon may have lost none of its beauty but that doesn't make it true.

Today we are still ravaged by the power of myths. There are still stories that keep us in check. Traditions that truly are the rule of the dead over the living. Certainly, Christianity is one. Capitalism is another. And a whole variety of prejudices represent still others.

I look forward to a day when we can step boldly into the light and declare ourselves free of myths and absurdities. We have to confront the realities of the world and the universe at large with our ability to reason. And every time some old fart - usually some fucking Republican - cries about the destruction of culture do try to remember what that person is really trying to champion: the unreasoning maintenance of the status quo.

Is that really what you want?

It's not what I want at all.

For centuries we were all monarchists. We have significantly abandoned that project at this time except as a symbol or to draw in the tourists.

The old ruling class transformed itself into the new capitalists. "You can have your newfangled democratic republic, just don't take our wealth away from us," they said.

But, see? something has to come next...

Do you suppose capitalism is going to work best for the 6,789,804,942 that are currently living on this planet? How long will we try to force a square peg into a round hole before we abandon the project?

Do you want to be controlled by the dead?