Uses of the Undead: Part Two

In last week’s post we looked at the strengths of monsters and why they’re so hard to defeat. This week we’ll take a peek into the People’s Armory: there’s some serious shit in there.

A small Nativity figurine of a man defecating on the ground, from the back.

A traditional caganer

Slouching towards Gotham

When monsters multiply (now easier than ever thanks to the fissiparous power of the Internet), things fall apart and the center not only cannot hold, but cannot even be discerned anymore. What can be done? Or, should we be looking for Lao Tsu’s “no action?”

One thing is sure: there is no political action that can deal with a monster. How could there be, when government is itself a Power? Monster + political action = a flow of resources towards the monster masters in saecula saeculorum. The House always wins.

The proper field of battle is and always has been what we call today “popular culture,” the authentic vox populi, which by its very nature is far closer to the source of the archetypes from which monsters are assembled. (There must be a grammar of monsters; was or is there a Chomsky to discover it?)


Crapping in the Nativity Scene

So what weapons does popular culture possess with which to fight monsters? How do you stand up to immortality, power, and the siren song of control over your fellow human beings? Well, you obviously need three magic weapons.

Popular culture is Antaean, drawing great strength and endurance from its deep and well-protected roots. It is the Fig Tree, which Jesus pointed out grows stronger if you sever its roots at the drip line. If you wonder why some thinkers seem so exercised about deracination, it’s because it’s kryptonite for heroes and monsters alike, an axe to the roots of a people’s stories about themselves. It’s a primary tool of Empire.

Popular culture is anarchic. That does not mean disorganized, merely “non-coercively democratic.” It does mean chaotic, in analogy to the scientific theory with its “strange attractors” and surprises in a deterministic system. Authority—the power of an archetype or its avatar—is organic, bottom-up, and highly resistant to top-down coercion. Passing more laws doesn’t help, it merely makes people more lawless and authority more capricious.

Popular culture is subversive. For instance, the caganer of much of Southern Europe is a small figure of a man crapping that is placed in the Nativity scene. In Catalonia, where the tradition is strongest, it is hidden for the children to find. The caganer seems to have made its first appearance in the 18th Century; I note that Spain conquered Barcelona in 1714. I think this quite subversive little figure is an attempt to take back the gospel story of the “humble Savior” from the Roman Catholic church, whose Inquisition was an instrument of the Spanish Crown.

Next week: Hannibal Lecter vs. Julian Assange et al, and why taking back the Night is on the critical path to a humane society.


About Dave Trowbridge

Dave Trowbridge has been writing high-tech marketing copy for almost thirty years. This has made him an expert in what he calls “pulling stuff out of the cave of the flying monkeys,” so science fiction comes naturally. He abandoned corporate life in 2007 — actually, it abandoned him — but not before attaining the rank of Dark Lord of Documentation, a title which still appears on his business card and serves to identify clients he’d rather not work with (the ones who don’t laugh). He much prefers the godlike powers of a science fiction author (hah!) to troglodyte status in dark corporate mills, and the universe is slowly coming around to his point of view. Dave is currently laboring over the second edition of the space-opera series Exordium with his co-author Sherwood Smith, and looking forward to writing more stories in that universe. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with his writer wife and fellow BVC member, Deborah J. Ross, and a tri-lingual German Shepherd Dog responsible for three cats. When not writing, Dave may be found wrangling vegetables—both domesticated and feral — in the garden.


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