"I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
And will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!"
Ishtar, The Epic of Gilgamesh
I've been reading up on zombies lately. I got there through a strange wiki-surf. I had been trying to look up a root word and wound up at a wikipedia entry for Persian fairies. That led me to ghouls, which are much closer to what we think of now as zombies. In fact, zombies originally were merely ghosts or dead which had been raised to become slaves to a bokun, a Voodoo sorcerer. They were without free will and pretty much mute. When it came to eating the flesh of the living, that was a ghoul's job.
Ghouls exist in one form or another in pretty much every world myth. Also in pretty much every world myth? An apocalyptic presence of walking dead, eating the bewildered living and bringing civilization to a screeching halt: the now-popular Zombie Apocalypse. It's even mentioned in Christianity. Don't believe me? Have you read Revelations? Throngs of the Evil Dead storming New Eden in an attempt to take it over and have their revenge on the virtuous. Zombie. Freakin'. Apocalypse. It's everywhere. The idea even predates the Epic of Gilgamesh, quoted above.
So why am I finding this so fascinating now? Well, for one thing I want to write something zombiefied, but I want a different take on it. What better way than to go back to the roots and work from the ground up? Also, I met a guy not long ago who firmly believes that there will be a Zombie Apocalypse started by a combination of cloned, irradiated meat and Ambien. "The dead will walk among us!" he said insistently to some very drunk, and quite possibly high, musical types hanging out at the bar. Personally, I don't believe in such an event. It's fun to think about, a fantasy to muse over, wondering if I'd be prepared, debating with my friends how to best handle it. But it's just a fantasy. Or is it?
I've been doing more study on the topic and it seems the idea has gone back thousands of years and spans pretty much every culture on every continent on the planet. We could go into all sorts of explanations as to how ancient (and even modern) peoples might have developed such fears through superstition and fear of the unknown, fear of death. We could dissect the shock of seeing a loved one so transformed by death into a cold, lifeless thing and how we keep wanting to see them move, yet at the same time pray they lie still in that coffin. We could go into lingering legends, literary themes, movies, sci-fi fantasies, conspiracy theories, and even cellular memory, Akashic Records and universal consciousness. Regardless of where it comes from, it's one of those widespread things. You know, sorta like all those ancient myths about a virgin birth or a dying god that brings life to the world.
Even the Mayans had a ritual of sacrifice of the king where he bled to death in order to bring fertility back to the land. Then there was that one historical figure who, it was claimed, had all the qualities of those myths. C.S. Lewis became a Christian overnight while having a heated debate on myth while drinking with his pals. Why? Because in the course of the argument, he came to believe that Jesus was the physical manifestation of all those world myths. If you take myth from the point of view of prophecy rather than a bunch of cool stories or the belief structures of some ancient culture, that they are all telling the story of something yet to be, then yes, Jesus was the fulfillment of all of those prophecies from around the world (something I personally believe). So why are there so many stories of a Zombie Apocalypse, even in the bible? Is it prophecy from all around the world? Ancient people who were clued in on something and then scattered, their languages confused, and the legends became slightly skewed as the Gossip Game played out for millennia on end? Did they know something that we still bring up in popular fiction and entertainment even to this day?
A friend of mine believes that there are already tons of zombies out there. Not the flesh-munching, brain-craving kind. No. The slaves without free will. And, oh! how we wish they were mute! Karl Marx once said that religion is the opiate of the masses. I think he might have had a different point of view if he'd grown up in this day and age. Entertainment is now the opiate of the masses. Reality TV takes us away from the world around us. Competition shows drain us of our drive to succeed. Instead, we all stand around the water cooler the next day and talk about the latest twist on Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives, and whatever else is popular these days. When the TV comes on, brain function slows to less than if we were sleeping. Our bodies move less than if we were comatose. It's a big part of why I got rid of my television. To quote Dr. Scott, "We must get out of this trap before this decadence saps our vills!"
Too late. Most of the people you see are already nothing more than human cattle, lulled into complacency and drained of their own creativity and any urges to rebel against oppression. Just take a listen to John Mayer's hit "Waiting On The World To Change" where he states "...it's not that we don't care/we just know the fight ain't fair..." Well, that didn't stop our parents in the 60's. And what happened when they did all their protests? We got change! Civil rights. Women's lib. If we sit on our asses, what's going to change? Nothing. And by the time our generation rules the population, as the song goes, we'll be perfectly content to keep the status quo. Whatever happened to civil disobedience? Peaceful protest? The principles of Thoreau, Ghandi, King? Meh, just have a sit-in at your mom's basement and wait for the assholes to die off. There's a good principle!
So we're already zombies, in a way. Fear of retaliation and a generic blasé have made us content to put up with whatever injustices may come our way. We might roll our eyes and do some passive-agressive bitching under our breath, but for the most part The Man has us right where he wants us. Is it something in the water? Perhaps it is. Maybe something is being added to the food supply to make us more malleable and compliant, a better citizen. Zombie slaves without will, punching a time card and sitting in a cubicle all day. Cookie cutter humans in assembly line jobs with no sense of self. Life is nothing more than a value combo set before us anymore. No wonder Romero considered his movies to be a social commentary of what's wrong with our society!
We need a Zombie-Ghoul Apocalypse. If not to shake us up and bring us back to life, then to weed out the mindless, the apathetic, and Lindsay Lohan. Ghoul Vs. Zombie. It would be like AVP except much slower and with a lot more shambling and whining. Who would you root for? Great-Grammy's maggot-ridden corpse or the bitch from down the hall that stole your stapler and then told everyone you made copies of your butt after hours? So come on already, Ishtar! When is the party? Oh, you're watching a Girls Next Door marathon? Nevermind.
What's in your head? In your head?