by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
Zombies, ghouls and all manner of bloodsuckers actually exist, denizens of a capitalist system in terminal decline, but not yet dead. “We are endangered by monsters who can and will eat us alive, but unlike the creatures depicted in movies and on television, they are mortal and can be defeated.” The nation seems suffused in a rotten, fetid fog. “When reliable jobs disappear and even teachers who were once respected are treated like low wage fast food employees, the horror becomes all too real.”
Freedom Rider: Zombies, Vampires and Capitalism
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Millions of people resort to frightening themselves on the big or small screen to make sense of their experiences.”
Why are Americans so fascinated with popular depictions of creatures who are both dead and alive? In recent years, Hollywood has provided an endless supply of reanimated, flesh eating corpses and blood sucking “undead.”
The entertainment industry bears great responsibility for this state of affairs because it has become more and more derivative in its repertoire. We can expect nothing but prequels and sequels and spinoffs of any movie or television show that is even moderately successful. The Walking Dead and True Blood are partly the result of an industry unwilling to take chances with original material, but these archetypes tell us more than what will put a studio in the black.
We cannot be blamed for feeling as if we are both dead and alive in a society so obviously on a precipitous decline. Americans’ incomes have been stagnant now for some 30 years and that situation doesn‘t change whether we are led by Democrats or Republicans. We rightly feel as though our life’s blood has been drained from our bodies and that there is no escaping the onslaught.
Cities like Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are like dystopian wastelands of modern horror movies. They were over run by flesh eating zombies, the people with the big money, finance capital, who took their marbles and went home, creating vast swaths of poverty. The propaganda tells us that Pittsburgh is better off as a tech center than as a steel producer but deep down we know better. There is a memory, however diminished, which knows that high paying unionized jobs made life better. When reliable jobs disappear and even teachers who were once respected are treated like low wage fast food employees, the horror becomes all too real.
“Cities like Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are like dystopian wastelands of modern horror movies.”
Yet there is no politician, no one in the corporate media, who verifies that those memories are accurate. The cognitive dissonance makes us feel that we are victimized by ghouls who suck our lives away. It is little wonder that these depictions in popular culture resonate with the masses.
Americans were never known for being class conscious, and as a result now have no idea how to explain their plight. They literally lack the language to do so. When the Greek people were told they would be punished because of high level, quasi-criminal machinations, they took to the streets in protest.
In this country so few of us know that we are witnessing the death throes of capitalism that instead of protesting en masse we make political decisions based on issues of little relevance. Actually, there may be a bit of logic at work here. How else to stay sane when both Democrats and Republicans promise to keep killing people around the globe or when the supposedly pro-union Democrats hold their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city without one unionized hotel.
Lacking any coherent outlet for conscious expression of their angst, Americans must create some means, however bizarre, for making sense of their predicament. It is quite sad, indeed it is very dangerous, for millions of people to witness billion dollar losses at J.P. Morgan Chase, chicanery with the Libor index and outright theft of funds at MF Global, without being given a good explanation of events. Yes, there are bad actors involved in each scandal, and yes the markets should be more rigorously regulated.
“They still have faith in a system which will inevitably fail them, and ignorance of that fact makes for insanity of various kinds.”
Unfortunately, no one bothers to add that those points are moot when the system itself is the problem. Americans have been propagandized into believing that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds, but its obvious fragility begs for true analysis.
In the absence of that analysis, millions of people resort to frightening themselves on the big or small screen to make sense of their experiences. We can grasp a frightening world where characters must escape from gruesome deaths, because we are living those experiences on a daily basis.
Americans are not only becoming increasingly impoverished but they are also deeply delusional about the true nature of their insecurity. They still have faith in a system which will inevitably fail them, and ignorance of that fact makes for insanity of various kinds. The conscious mind says that if we have a different president, we may escape from a rotten, and completely broken system. The subconscious still speaks, and it is telling us that there is little hope to be had from the people who preside over our slow but sure demise.
We are endangered by monsters who can and will eat us alive, but unlike the creatures depicted in movies and on television, they are mortal and can be defeated. They can be rendered harmless by acts of defiance and non-cooperation. In the movies, a vampire can’t enter a home without first being invited. Democrats must not be invited into our homes any longer either because they are just as dangerous to life and limb as their Republican counterparts. That knowledge is the beginning of our salvation and the end of infantilized versions of true threats to our lives.
So enjoy the fake movie monsters if you must. Just know that they may represent real life monsters who are more easily defeated. In real life the silver bullet is a simple but clear understanding of their inherently evil nature and a resolve to treat all of them as such. That understanding is a lot simpler than a plot point in any film.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.