Tuesday, January 02, 2007

White Zombies

As a person who always asks “Do you have herpes?”when someone asks to drink from my glass, I probably should’ve known Max Brooks’ World War Z would’ve freaked me out. A great read for its structure as much as for its telling the book addresses the incredibly valid question: “What measures would humanity take if there were a Zombie outbreak?” Framed entirely by interviews, Max Brooks looks at the impact of this supposed Zombie war some fifteen years after victory has been declared in the United States. His imaginary interviews are with military personnel, from the vice president of united states, to the front line grunt who first has to deal with getting his ass beat by “Zak” (Zak is to zombie what Charlie was to the V.C in Vietnam) due to an over technology based strategy, to revealing in the joy of a new weapon that looks like a battle axe with a shovel attached to the end of it. We have the human victims of mass migration to colder climates where the Zombies will freeze. But due to typical human stupidity, they don’t bring enough food and end up eating each other. International politics are not avoided in this work either. Apparently a black president is quickly elected after the white president has a heart attack upon hearing the news about the walking dead. The zombie virus originally gets out of China due to organ harvesting, Israel offers all Jews and Palestinians safe harbor before it closes its borders to all immigrants, and an Apartheid genius is embraced by Mandela as he offers South Africa its only possible solution for containing the madness.

Through it all, Max Brooks takes what could be a very comical or at least ridiculous premise with all the seriousness of a real situational analysis. Anyone who read his previous book, A zombie survival guide, can tell you how convincing this man can be. I might have been totally hooked if not for my religious background. You see my problem with a lot of the Zombie fiction today; yes it is a genre, See 28 days later, The walking Dead, http://www.landofthedeadmovie.net/ etc, is that it ignores the afrocentric roots of the Zombie. You see Zombies do exists.

A zombie is a person whose “soul” has been captured by a bokor, or witch doctor. There is a process by which this happens. It is comforting to believe that the future zombie has done something offense to the bokor, or to someone who has hired the bokor, but that need not be the case. The Bokor need only have a proper understanding of his trade, botany, animal husbandry, chemistry, and physiology, to begin the process. They start by making a zombie powder. This consists of powdered glass, buffer toxin from a specific type of toad, toxins from a puffer fish of Haiti, and a whole bunch of other fun cocktails. Once that combo is made up right, it need only be sprinkled in a place where the victim is known to walk barefooted, (in the shoes, around the house, etc.). Soon the victim will feel themselves getting weaker, sicker, respiration rates will fall, lethargy will set in, vision will become blurred. In short they will feel themselves dying. The community around them, aware of the symptoms, will begin to mourn their passage before they are truly dead, and will be in a hurry to bury them. In the past, maybe they skipped over checking for such critical signs of life as a heartbeat. Or they may have listened for it and the thumping been so faint that it was assumed absent. Yet despite all these claims, the person is still alive.

The community then does what it does with all “dead” bodies, it buries them. The victim, not yet a Zombie, is apparently fully conscious of what is going on, just unable to respond. They witness their own funeral from a perspective no one should. After the ceremony, just as the zombie powder is wearing off, the Bokor digs up the “corpse”, forces, any number of alcohol based psychotropics down the person throat and whips them into believing that they are his personal undead property, a zombie to be controlled by the Bokor less they wish to be buried again. They are taken from their neighborhood, and serve their bokor until such time as they are truly dead.

See that’s ten times scarier to me than undead soldiers eating human flesh and all that. The true Zombie, a new world phenomenon as far as I’ve researched, is the symbolic angst born of slavery. It is the black fear of enslavement written upon a metaphysical landscape, enslavement after death. Don’t get me wrong, I love zombie fiction, I find it fascinating. But with the exception of Romero’s work, I also find it hella white.


Blogger Stephen said...

very nice

7:21 PM  

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