There’s a zombie drug sweeping the US called Tranq — an animal sedative often mixed with fentanyl. When injected, it cuts off a user’s circulation, causing their skin to peel and leading to abscesses and ulcers.
Meanwhile, zombie banks are roaming the land. Since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, other “walking dead” institutions with a balance sheet of less than zero have been feeding off taxpayers in the form of various government bailouts – and it’s a financial horror show.
And the number one streaming show in America, The Last of Us features a full-blown zombie apocalypse, caused by a fungus called cordyceps, which in real life does in fact take over insect brains, turning them into zombie insects. In the show, somehow the fungus crosses over and spreads through the human population.
In other words, zombies are everywhere.
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Drugs, banks, and TV shows. What next?
Professor Arnold T Blumberg, the author of ZombieMania, claims “Zombies happen during times of economic stress — that’s the way that horror works.”
Zombie movies surged after 9/11 and once again after the 2008 recession. As our economy teeters on the edge of recession, it’s no surprise that zombies are popping up in the news and culture again.
The walking dead have become an almost proletarian symbol of the horrors of late-stage capitalism. Only they don’t want a revolution–they just want brains. And we can relate. Psychologist Dr Evan Axelrod, Psy.D., ABPP, says “Like the zombie, people shamble through their day mindlessly, being slaves to their never-ending drive to consume more and more.”
Luckily, the fungus cordyceps cannot actually survive at the high body temperature of a mammal — hence it targets insects. So we’re safe, for now.
But when you sit back and observe people in a public space with their faces glued to smartphones, you have to wonder how safe. Seen those Youtube videos of people falling into fountains and running into walls while staring at their smartphones? Or what about families of people sitting at restaurant tables together staring at their individual phones? Not speaking? That is pretty much how a family of zombies would behave, right?
They’re medical cases of “pseudo-zombiism.”
Cotard’s syndrome, also known as walking corpse syndrome, is a rare psychiatric disorder that makes the victim think that they are dead and that their flesh is rotting like a zombie’s.
“In 2008, a 53-year-old Filipino woman with Cotard delusion was admitted to a psychiatric unit after she told her family she was dead, smelled of rotting flesh and wanted to be taken to a morgue so she could be with other dead people.”
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Luckily, Cotard’s is actually very treatable by either psychiatric medication or electroconvulsive therapy. However, there is no effective treatment for actual zombiism. In traditional folklore, zombies are not “curable.” It’s only video games like Minecraft that offer ways out of your zombiism. In real life, once you get it – you’re done for.
In The Last of Us, the biologist in Jakarta who discovers the fungal zombie outbreak is asked by a government official what they should do. “Bomb,” she says. Which seems right.
Remember that game Plants Versus Zombies, with the bomb thingie you could throw at zombies? But this solution is actually suggested by epidemiologists, but it’s not called “bomb.” It’s known as “culling,” which is actually even scarier.
But who will decide who and where to cull? I mean, if the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that people will NOT put up with government attempts to stem disease outbreaks. If we get pissed off about having to wear face masks, imagine how the more grumpy of us will react to reports of our sketchy government officials ordering selective culling.
How will the powers-that-be decide which of us are zombies?
Zombie DNA, zombie drivers, zombies everywhere
It’s true, up to 17 per cent of our DNA is apparently of a type loosely referred to as “zombie DNA”. These are officially called “transposons” – genetic snippets that can replicate themselves into our genome. Sometimes they benefit us, sometimes they really mess with us. They can both prevent and cause cancer.
But they are not exactly the same as these parasitic fungi that turn insects into zombies. They are just a kind of coding error, akin to a bug in a computer program.
Another example of pseudo-zombiism is the “highway hypnosis” effect, which causes human beings to kind of go south and not even regain consciousness until they reach their destination. They were daydreaming. Or just spacing out. Who the heck was driving the car?
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According to a survey by Root Insurance, more than half the participants reported an inability to concentrate in video conference meetings.
Of course, there is a big difference between being unable to concentrate and being a full-fledged zombie that wants to eat brains. Because you’re still in control of your brain. Or are you?
The groundbreaking, massive and revolutionary novel In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, was inspired by a revelation the author had that his memories were what he called “involuntary.” He drinks some lime tea and eats a mandolin cookie and suddenly he’s launched into a 1500-page flashback. Wow, that was some strong tea.
The point is, he didn’t “choose” to remember all that boring French stuff. It was more or less inflicted on him by his mind.
This was written during the ascendency of psychoanalysis. Freud more or less postulated that our conscious mind is at the whim of hidden unconscious drives. In other words —we’re kind of like zombies.
The only cure? A very expensive four-times-a-week psychoanalytical cause of treatment that can last five or ten years.
Others choose to go round’ the pub a few times a week and drink themselves into a slightly buzzed, slightly less conscious state. It’s giving your inner zombie a turn. The stress of having to be an intelligent, interesting and coherent human being is relieved for a couple of hours – no harm no foul. You’ll be alert and ready to go back to work in the A.M. Never mind if, after your third pint, your inner zombie did something embarrassing like singing “It’s a Mad World” while falling off a tabletop.
Your mates were most likely mildly zombified themselves and won’t remember a thing.