Most people think of [zombies] as the walking dead, a being without a soul or someone with no free will. This is true. But the zombie is not an alien enemy who’s been CGI-ed by Hollywood. He is a New World phenomenon that arose from the mixture of old African religious beliefs and the pain of slavery, especially the notoriously merciless and coldblooded slavery of French-run, pre-independence Haiti. In Africa, a dying person’s soul might be stolen and stoppered up in a ritual bottle for later use. But the full-blown zombie was a very logical offspring of New World slavery.
For the slave under French rule in Haiti — then Saint-Domingue — in the 17th and 18th centuries, life was brutal: hunger, extreme overwork and cruel discipline were the rule. Slaves often could not consume enough calories to allow for normal rates of reproduction; what children they did have might easily starve. That was not of great concern to the plantation masters, who felt that children were a waste of resources, since they weren’t able to work properly until they reached 10 or so. More manpower could always be imported from the Middle Passage.
The only escape from the sugar plantations was death, which was seen as a return to Africa, or lan guinée (literally Guinea, or West Africa). This is the phrase in Haitian Creole that even now means heaven. The plantation meant a life in servitude; lan guinée meant freedom. Death was feared but also wished for. Not surprisingly, suicide was a frequent recourse of the slaves, who were handy with poisons and powders. The plantation masters thought of suicide as the worst kind of thievery, since it deprived the master not only of a slave’s service, but also of his or her person, which was, after all, the master’s property. Suicide was the slave’s only way to take control over his or her own body.
News is a weird gig. So many stories so outlandishly odd you couldn’t possibly make them up.
And with the zombie batch hitting the headlines over the past week, from the naked face eater in Miami (hat tip to Slate for this understated lede: “A naked man now identified as 31-year-old Rudy Eugene was shot dead Saturday after he refused to stop eating another man’s face.”), to a college student eating the brains and heart of his roommate (pro tip: keep an eye out on your dorm mates), to the Canadian man who’s been mailing body parts to the headquarters of that country’s major political parties, to… well, should we go on?
Because we can, let’s note that another Canadian man arrested four years ago for cannibalizing a fellow bus passenger just had his first interview. Appears God told him to save people from aliens.
Which brings me to the US Center for Disease Control.
"If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack," says Dr. Ali Khan, the CDC’s Director for the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.
I don’t buy it. I think the CDC knows exactly what’s going on.
It’s a zombie world and we just happen to live in it. — Michael