As I sit in front of my trusty old Smith Corona, laboriously hand-stitching internet links onto the typed pages, I find myself reflecting on the massive changes I have witnessed in my life. Of all of these, aside from abominations like “light” butter and the fact that the greatest communications technology ever created seems dedicated to grafting bad grammer onto cats, the one that perplexes me the most is the strange and sudden evolution of the Zombie.
Now, when I was a child, dinosaurs no longer roamed the earth, but my mother did have to chase the occasional wooly mammoth out of the Victory Garden. We had REAL zombies back then. Zombies were the mindless slaves of Evil White Witch Doctors whose purpose in life was to do the Evil Bidding of their Evil Masters, which principally involved kidnapping blonde women in white nighties. Diabolical? Certainly! But it was ORGANIZED devilry. Somebody was in charge. There was the Zombie and the Zombie Master. The one was silent and perfectly loyal and was never going to go on strike or demand equal housing or run for high office (although he is going to steal your women). The other was a traitor to his race, and we all knew where we stood.
By the time I went to high school I realized that this was only a superficial, suburban understanding of the Zombie question. I read Zora Neale Hurston. I read THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. Real zombies were the independent creations of Haitian culture, created by a sophisticated combination of creative use of local poison and mental trauma. The zombie had been buried, yes, but they were not dead. And there was still someone in charge. Contrary to Hollywood’s interpretation, the zombie master was generally a Haitian man or a group of men and thus we could see that these descendents of field slaves were equal to any caucasian in the Evil Master category. You just had to understand the culture and history of Zombies in a properly educated and enlightened fashion.
Okay, it wasn’t as much fun. Haitian zombies, as photographed by Hurston, were tortured, poisoned, and most emphatically not dead people, but it was still ORGANIZED. There was still someone in charge and we still all knew where we stood. There was no laxity. There was the victim and the victimizer. Someone was stepping up and taking personal responsibility for each and every Zombie.
But then things changed. As with all aspects of First World Existence, the creation of zombies went into mass production. There was clearly not enough profit or evil in just putting one trumatized person to work, or kidnapping blondes one at a time. And as for using the living, clearly that had become too expensive. So Necromancers, who had previously been properly relagated to working black magic using bits of dead bodies and unbaptized infants started raising the dead in large numbers. But these processes resulted in an inferior zombie-product. Unlike their predecessors made from quality live humans, raised-dead zombies were shambling, slow, and prone to falling apart at a moment’s notice. But they still had a purpose in life. They were workers. They had a job to do. If full-scale necromancy was impersonal compared to the former one-on-one relationship between Zombie and Zombie Master, at least the zombies still had a goal in existence until they fell into squishy bits.
But then it all changed again. People aren’t even creating Zombies from the local graveyard anymore. Oh, no! In these modern times, no one is made to take repsonsibility for their zombies. These days, we’re blaming their environment, of all things! Now, we say, zombies can be created by radiation as if they were nothing more than giant lizards in Tokyo harbor. They can even be created by viruses for Heaven’s Sake! Where did that come from? Any person, anywhere, is in danger of becoming a member of the mindless, leaderless, reasonless zombie hoard to randomly roam the earth eating brains and moaning. Gone are the days of dedicated service to evil. Gone is the quintessential human relationship that made being a zombie make sense. And gone, gone forever is the time when you could end the whole problem by simply killing the Zombie Master. Now you and your buddies have to wage war with a chain saw and a flamethrower. Now it’s all rampaging, and ripping off limbs, and nowhere to hide, because zombies aren’t even slow anymore. They have become one more implacable environmental danger too massive to escape from.
And then there’s this whole brain-eating question. I mean, the whole advantage of the zombie used to be they didn’t require maintenance. Now, they eat the living, wasting precious resources, you’d think, since we’re back to making zombies from live humans. It’s nothing but waste and chaos on a massive scale, because no one is putting any thought into these modern zombies.
Some said it couldn’t get worse, that this was the ultimate point in Zombie evolution, but you know, I couldn’t be so optomistic. It could get worse, and I said so at the time. Because, as with any long standing phenomenon, no matter how bad, somebody somewhere is going to figure out how to make money off it. So what do we get? We get these glamor memoirs about the survivors of world-wide zombie attacks. We even have self-help books on how to deal with your personal zombie threat, the net effect of which is to actually decrease empathy with the zombie victims. Instead of putting responsibility where it belongs with the creator of the zombie (I mean, someone bred that virus or launched that satellite) these books suggest that zombification happens only to those who are too lazy or ignorant to take the necessary precautions. In short, if your brains get eaten, you probably deserve it.
Well, I say it’s time to stop blaming the victims. We need to return to the zombie values that made this country great. We need demand that our leaders take charge of the zombie hoards and return them to the useful purposes for which they were originally created.
Think about it. The brain you save might be your own.