What Zombies Tell Us

There are numbers of ‘monsters’ that from time to time occupy our popular culture. If you read some other reflections that I have written you will see that my take about daemon possession is that it mostly happens to young women entering upon womanhood. They are wondering if those people whom they will ‘admit’ to their lives will then destroy them. The stories about being possessed by monsters is a way of projecting this fear onto the screen of literature in order to get a look at it.

When it comes to vampires, there is something similar happening. It is mostly young women who are penetrated by vampires. The question that they seem to be asking is ‘How come someone who seems so charming, handsome, and different from the staid life of a pre-adult, can possibly end up ‘sucking the life out of me’? That is not fair!!  I need a ‘true man’ who will help me protect myself from this danger (garlic flowers, sunlight, fresh water, and silver) and who will have the courage (heart) to drive a wooden stake through the ‘heart’ of the vampire. This is also a coming of age story.

But the stories that frequent our popular culture now are the stories of zombies. One of our young people said ‘Jesus could not have risen from the dead because if, as you tell me, dad, that zombies are not real, neither can Jesus’ coming back from the dead be real.’

So what kind of understanding can we develop about zombies? So zombies make us afraid. Why? Perhaps because they represent death. They are people who have died, and have come back, not as ‘real people’ but as faceless people who are not ‘alive’ but who have enough energy (life?) in them to destroy. So there’s the two characteristics that I find interesting: ‘Faceless energy of destruction’.

Most of us do not want to be destroyed, so when potentially faced with our own destruction, we experience fear. But what kind of ‘faceless destruction’ are we facing now? In the 1950’s when the fear of ‘destruction’ was brought about by the cold war much of the projection literature was about UFOs and aliens from outer space who were going to destroy us.

Today, the ‘faceless destroyers’ are of three kinds I think. The first has to do with environmental destruction. Climate Change is making us all scared about the future of the planet, and what life is going to be like when the changes in water, and food and oceans make great changes in the conditions of our lives. But this is difficult to do anything about as an individual. The climate change fear appears to meet the conditions of our fears about zombies: faceless and destructive

The second big fear that I can identify is the fear that the faceless people who control the financial system will end up destroying us. Listen to this quote from ‘The Guardian’ of Wednesday this week. “This month, the Bank of England’s new Prudential Regulation Authority found that Barclays was one of the UK’s big banks with an insufficient cash buffer to protect it against future financial and economic shocks.” In Australia the Government is about to tax ordinary bank accounts (again) to pay for a safety new for the banks. And it was their irresponsibility that got us into this mess in the first place. But trying to make any of them accountable for what they have done to ‘face up to’ what has happened is not easy. These forces that threaten to destroy our life savings are equally ‘faceless’.

For many people, the fear of losing their job, or of being robbed or over-run by crime, or being exposed to too much difference which is unknown is also one that they daily live with. Experiencing this kind of home invasion or job loss removes our sense of being ‘actors’ in our own lives. This sense of powerlessness if brought about by faceless forces like ‘the economy’ or ‘restructuring’

Children also have their own, more personal fears about facing the life of a teenager, or an adult that might end up destroying them. Zombies are, I should think, a regular feature of the nightmares of many young person.
So I think that the movies about zombies are our way of expressing our fear of these three kinds of global or local fears.

For many who are subject to these ‘faceless’ fears, the anxiety is displaced onto someone nearby who does have a face. It is often the most recent migrants who become the recipients of this projected anxiety and who are blamed for the loss of jobs and increase in crime. This is despite the fact that migration in general adds to the common wealth, and it is the oppressive policies of the government that prevents migrants from working that increases the rate of burglary by people who cannot work.

All you need to do to see the futility of this is to see who it has been over the years who has been the recipient of such fear. Mostly it has been the Jews. But there have been other groups (communists in the 1950s) who have been the unjustified target of our fear of faceless destruction.’

The other thing we do to cope with these fears is two things. First we watch television police shows. They show us that there is a ‘goodie’ who will del with ‘the person under the bed’ and return the world to normal for us.

We also ‘get ourselves used to it’ by watching shows that make us feel what it is like to risk everything and lose. Shows like ‘The Money Drop’ are like this. Shows that have people ‘voted off’ by ‘faceless forces’ are designed to get us used to the idea that ‘zombies are about,’ and that we should learn to live with them. Movies like ‘Star Wars’ tell us that it is perhaps possible, through skill harness ‘the force’ to our purposes so that we will not be destroyed by the ‘faceless’ near-zombie of ‘Darth Vader’ (read ‘Death Invader’).

But Christians have available to us another source of power. God the Father who in the Son provides the real ‘face’ of the forces universe. These forces are not destructive but creative. They are not anonymous but essentially recognisable in Jesus. These forces are capable of ‘indwelling’ us (not invading us) in the Holy Spirit.

It makes sense to do a proper analysis of the different kinds of evil forces that there are around. We need to be wise as serpents and not be naïve when it comes to the people in the background who want to pursue their ends at the expense of us if need be. It is good to try to make ‘faceless’ people ‘face up to’ us. But it does not make sense to ‘believe in them’ as if migrants really are the source of our loss of jobs, and that ‘zombies’ are more powerful than Jesus. Every Sunday we gain communion with those powers that who really do control the destiny of the world, who are ‘for us’ not against us and who do have a face.

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About frpaulsblog

Paul Dalzell is now a semi-retired priest living in Alexandra, Australia
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