Tatoos and body modification. Newt Gingrich’s candidacy. The rise of the “Tea Party.” The decline of democracy and its ideal of civic participation. And the enduring popularity of… Zombie movies.
Could they be connected?
Maybe they could– if, behind all headlines and driving all news stories, we sense one cryptic, overarching phenomenon– an uneasy, unavoidable awareness that the total number of people crowding our world has already exceeded 7 billion.
Earth’s population is now around 6,840,507,000 humans, according to an estimate by the United Nations.
Even if you set aside all concerns about such a truly apocalyptic menace to the natural world– climate change and ecological devastation, compromised water and food supplies, increased fears of famine and wars, all that stuff, the whole megilla, behind these crouches the troubling fact– everywhere you look
you are surrounded– by people.
Our planet is groaning under human overgrowth, which won’t go away by itself.
If we aren’t consciously thinking about that unwholesome reality, while we limit our focus to smaller problems easier to visualize, this super-problem– which in the end is also ultimately responsible for all the others– still succeeds in making itself known– through other channels.
All this “tribalism” stuff, for example.
Countries break up, or seek to end ancient alliances to go off on their own.
The former Yugoslavia has pulled apart into fragments. Now Scotland flirts with leaving the UK.
Nations, parties, and factions belligerently insist on the purity of complete autonomy.
In our own country, isn’t this also a factor in the anti-Federalism promoted so vigorously by Republicans and the Tea Party? Those characters have made no secret that they also see themselves as an intrepid band, surrounded and threatened by larger interests.
Ron Paul fans, survivalists– wherever in the political spectrum they come from, such people clearly no longer feel that they are connected with the larger project of civilization. Those bonds continue to weaken.
Anything held in common seems farther off, a vague, dissolving ideal…
Newt Gingrich (whose name sounds as if it were lifted from a science fiction novel, perhaps one of the Dune series), portrays himself as an embattled warrior against un-American hordes.
Outside politics, the legions of the tattooed and pierced strive for identity in smaller groups.
And, why is the zombie movie scenario so popular?
Years ago. George Romero of Pittsburgh, PA, was inspired to create the best movie monsters of all– other people.
Science fiction, and to some degree horror movies have always been driven by the fear of Dehumanization. The loss of individuality, identity, of humanity.
This loss may be the pressing issue of our times.
And these critically disdained, popular entertainments do address it.
The Living Dead stand for the result– and the cause.
The beauty of the set-up, what gives it the lasting appeal it presents, is that it acknowledges apocalypse– yet offers the comforting premise of the small group of
We always picture ourselves as them– survivors. Not the victims.
Because, we are led to think, if we separate ourselves from the world, if we reject the idea of community, we, not they, will survive..