Photo from Cambridge Zombie Walk
by Judee Richardson-Schofield
I don’t get zombies. They do not make sense to me. I understand vampires, werewolves, witches and even ghostly demons from the pit of hell, but zombies seem to be a contradiction that I cannot resolve. Perhaps my malaise has to do with my lapsed Catholicism. Many religious traditions promise resurrection but zombies present a resurrection or re-animation that is pathetic and badly acted. Along these lines, I wonder why so many people are fascinated by these creatures to the extent that they go on annual zombie walks. I guess dressing up like the living dead is a creative way of helping charities raise money.
Zombies are called the walking dead, hence the title from the very popular AMC drama. In this hit series humans suffering from some kind of apocalyptic virus are re-animated as the walking dead who eat the flesh of the living. In their pursuit of fresh meat the zombies keep on moving, albeit in slow, staggered and un-coordinated manner. They insist. Death drives them like a parasitical virus to infect what still breathes. The only way of stopping the walking dead is to make them doubly dead by chopping off their heads or to bash in their brains. The preferred weapons of choice on the show are sharp sticks, knives, cross-bows, samurai swords or the trusted Colt 45.
Dead by definition is what is no longer living, so it makes no sense for the dead to walk, eat flesh or wear unfashionable clothes. Of course, the dead do tell tales, especially on CSI Miami, but they do not pursue the living, except in a metaphysical, symbolic way.
I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the area of seeing corpses. When I was in Croatia in the 1990’s after the war that was imposed on it, I saw enough mass grave bodies to learn what the dead actually do. The dead smell. It is a smell unlike any other scent. It is not the smell of gentle decay that happens in the fall. If I had to pin it down I would say that the dead smell like rotting chicken that has been buried in the dirt for a few weeks and then mixed with honey and rotting fruit under the midday sun. There are times that this smell comes back to haunt me like a lingering and un-wanted perfume one inhales when entering an elevator.
Shows like The Walking Dead reveal a profound misunderstanding of the issue. The non-existent zombies are not the walking dead. Those who are merely existing and living lives as programmed unconscious automatons are the walking dead. They are dead to life itself. They live unaware of complexity, mystery, depth and interiority. They are hooked like fish on a shiny lure that others have devised for them. They are leashed within the herd of the great unthinking and consuming mass.
A zombie by definition is not mindful. Many viewers, after having watched The Walking Dead tune in to watch The Talking Dead, a show that provides an hour long commentary on what recently transpired in the series. The play of mirrors continues- a show about zombies followed by a talk show about zombies, followed by texting and tweeting about zombies, followed by a trip to a Big Box Store to buy a Walking Dead T-Shirt and matching pyjamas just in time to watch the season finale of Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo-Boo, Jerry Springer and Storage Wars. The transformation is complete- the viewer has become an honorary member of the watching dead, transfixed by the lure of the image and its empty entertainment value.
To be mindful is a difficult undertaking. To be mindful means not to be doped by any substance, style, ideology or idol. Yet, so many long for the poisoned presents of Morpheus, the ancient Greek god of dreams. That Duck Dynasty is the number one reality show today speaks volumes not only about reality and how it is perceived, that is to say, extremely edited and packaged in manageable bites but about how easy it is to be addicted to what is superficial, idiotic and mindless. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against making a fortune selling duck calls. After-all, great chunks of the American dream were built on prolonged quackery but one wonders if there is something more to life than consuming beef jerky with Phil, Si, Jase, Willie, and Jep while racing riding lawnmowers.
Many are given over to a techno-idolatry that places them directly in front of what is to be worshipped while giving them the illusion of control. Today, screens of various sizes have become blank and nameless gods. We are used by that which we use. Forced to sit, stare, act and behave, we are unaware of what our devices do to us. We move without being aware of moving- eat while watching TV, text while driving until a crash puts an end to our very important thumb-work.
In this state where we have become a device remotely controlled by others, we pay little heed to the conditions that deliver us over to stupidity. Stupidity is knowing how to proceed but acting against that knowledge. We live according to the dictates of a laminated itinerary that eventual reveals its plastic infused disappointment.
The fantasy worlds that we create may seem to protect us from suffering and heart-ache but in the end they are symptoms of an unlived life that is not worth examining. Perhaps viewers could become less focused on imaginary zombie hordes, twilight vampires and focused on things that would enhance their lives; you know writing, reading, arithmetic, physical activity, science, music and art, in other words, education. How telling that the group of survivors in The Walking Dead hide out in prison. Prison protects them. Orwell would have smiled.Tags: AMC, Big Box Store, Croatia, Duck Dynasty, living, something, TV