What the living dead can teach us about ancient prejudices
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
P-zombies differ from the zombies of pop culture, such as those explored by neuroscientists Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek in Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? (Princeton University Press, 2014). These zombies, they write, suffer from “Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder” characterized by “a lack of intentional control over their actions, lethargic and fatigued movements (akinesthesia), loss of a sense of pleasure (anhedonia), general language dysfunction (aphasia), memory impairments (amnesias), and an inability to suppress appetitive actions such as eating or aggressive ‘fight-or-flight’ behaviors.” These very real disorders (and others, such as a neural virus hijacking a brain), if combined into one person, would create the zombie found in such films as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, a staple of this now wildly popular genre.
The odds of such medical maladies taking over millions of bodies at once is remote, so a zombie apocalypse is not something we need concern ourselves with. Why, then, are zombies so popular? Perhaps they touch an instinctive xenophobia that evolved as part of our human nature to be suspicious of outsiders who, in our ancestral environment, were potentially dangerous. In the western world we have learned to curb such chauvinisms and as a result the moral sphere has expanded to include all racial and ethnic groups as worthy of moral respect and equality, so maybe zombies and other fictional beings found in science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres stimulate those neural regions of our non-zombie brains and allow for a healthy and nonviolent outlet for such ancient callings.
And on a personal note: Yesterday my computer came from the dead after having been left on the conveyer belt in Fumicino airport’s x-ray machine ten days ago.
With the help of some very good friends across countries and languages, good will prevailed and the computer was found. Hallelujah!