What our monsters tell us

Simcha Fisher has put up a timely and relevant post, something I certainly think worth pondering given the back and forth that breaks out in social media and blogging comment threads:

Want to learn something about a society? Then take a look at what sort of fictional monsters are currently in vogue. What we fear tells us what kind of people we are.

What about zombies? Zombies have appeared in literature and folklore for centuries. But why are they

David R. Tribble, "Gargoyle and Girl"

David R. Tribble, “Gargoyle and Girl”

so everlastingly popular now, and what does our persistent zombie fear and fascination say about who we are as a society?  Mark Shea and I were talking about monsters on the radio yesterday, and Mark said something that rings true.  (And I’m paraphrasing his ideas, here, and drawing some of my own conclusions, so don’t be mad at him if you disagree with the rest of this post!)

The guy who beats the zombies, says Mark, is very often the rugged individualist type — the kind of guy who ignores government directives and relies on his own wits and strength. Most tellingly, the enemy to be feared is not so much the individual zombies themselves, as the contagiousness of the virus or disease or whatever it is that’s causing zombification. There is no one you can run to for help, because the bigger the crowd, the greater the chance there is of contamination. When there are ghosts or vampires or werewolves or sea monsters after you, you seek out allies, and make yourself stronger by banding together with anyone who can fight. But when it’s zombies? You can’t trust anyone; you may be required to turn against your own friends and family in order to save yourself. The only hope, really, is to wall yourself up safe inside some fortress. The worst possible thing that can happen is for people to spend time together, travel, encounter people they haven’t encountered before.

The monster is, in short, community itself — and the solution is to hide, survive, and wait for everyone else to eat each other.

Sound familiar? Most comment boxes are stuffed with people who really do believe in zombies — only they don’t call them “zombies.” We call them “Syrian refugees” or “people with autism” or “Mexicans” or “the disabled” or “the poor” or “Catholics” or “atheists” or “Jews” or “fetuses” or “Muslims” or “millennials” or “the elderly.” Or we call them — horror of horrors — “Argentinians.” 

What do we tell ourselves, when we see the zombies coming for us?

She answers the question.

Go read the rest.

Carry on.

Crossposted at Brutally Honest.

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