Thursday, July 27, 2017

Zombies v Vampires

The Republican attempts to kill healthcare and millions of Americans along with it have several times been given up for dead, but they keep coming back, led by McConnell, a description of whom as "reptilian" gets us in the ballpark but understates the reality, as abetted by the snarling Homegrown Hitler. A new poll this week shows that HH is dangerously close to being weakly approved by one-third, with his strong base down to 25%, a few ticks away from Nixon's at the moment he resigned. He has lost ground in all the battleground states he won, and half of those polled don't believe he'll make it to the end of his term. In other words, politically he's dead. And yet, there he is.

And there he or someone like him will always be, because they are one version of the living dead. They are the Vampires.

Vampires, from their earliest 19th century emergence in popular storytelling, were always aristocrats: Count Dracula and so on. Even in more recent imaginings in decadent New Orleans or among suburban teens, they are among the 1% or so. Blood-sucking capitalists, vampire capitalism. Today they are the Plutocrats--a perfect name for them. Pluto the god of the underworld, where the gold is, and the dead, so he is the god of both wealth and death.

The very rich have always pulled the strings but now the US has an officially plutocratic government of billionaires. It used to be that the laws against conflicts of interest kept the very wealthy out of government, but it turns out there are no such laws after all, and the wealthy get to keep their businesses  and use their high government positions and access to the federal coffers to make more money. As Jonathan Chait points out, our apprentice dictator defines conflict of interest as not swearing loyalty and fealty to him.

Presiding over all this is the adult family of the apprentice dictator, all of them pretty obviously vampires. I mean, look at them.  (But not here--none of their photos have appeared on this site since election day, nor any of their names except within quotations.  Nor will they ever.  I'm not feeding them their lifeblood if I can help it.)

The other undead are the zombies. As reimagined by George Romero--who died last week--they are the living dead who swarm in huge groups, eager to eat the brains of the living, turning them into zombies.

 Zombies have captured the popular imagination in recent years, and no wonder. If vampires are the 1%, zombies are the 99%, fighting each other for the dregs. Zombies are "the precariat"--holding precariously onto some semblance of respectability-- or those who have already fallen off the precipice. To be joined by 16 to 26 million of the precariat, depending on which Republican unhealthcare bill eventually becomes law, if any.

So who are the brainless living dead out to eat everybody's brains? We're tempted to suggest they are the people who show up at Homegrown Hitler's rallies. The adults at least--turning the Boy Scouts into Homegrown Hitler Youth I hope was not as real as it was scary.

Here the origins of the zombie myth is instructive. It comes from Haiti, where through sorcery, plantation bosses were able to dig up fresh corpses and turn them into slaves to work the fields, or commit crimes if needed.  Zombies were portrayed as mindless slaves of their masters in stories before Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  And though it seems to have created the template for all the succeeding zombie dramas, nobody called them zombies in that movie. They were mostly called ghouls.

In political and economic life, the rich few have been able to expand power by getting the unrich many to fight their wars, and to keep power by somehow convincing them their plight was caused by others even more unrich than they.  The Vampires have been using their Zombie armies for centuries, and their Zombie voters.

Romero actually made a related political point in Night of the Living Dead (as Brent Staples pointed out recently) by showing the living in endless squabbles and conflict when confronted by the relentless undead, and the hero who leads them --a black man--is shot dead by someone in the posse, who assumes he is a zombie.  Staples:

"But for Mr. Romero, these effects were incidental to his broader theme: how mutual contempt and tribal self-interest so often prevent people from banding together in the face of a mortal threat. The flesh-eating dead, at least, come together in mindless self-interest. But the embattled residents of the farmhouse bicker and betray one another even as the darkness closes in. Mr. Romero viewed them as a metaphor for a society so deeply invested in petty enmities that it failed to see it was being swallowed alive."

The metaphorical equivalence of Vampires as the plutocratic wealthy and Zombies as the unrich came to me some months ago, as it must have to others--like s/f writer Kim Stanley Robinson, who came up with roughly the same formula and actually trademarked the title Zombies V. Vampires.

Right now it seems the Vampires still have a tight hold on their Zombie followers, but they know that could change, and recently a self-identified Plutocrat came out in public and said so. Nick Hanauer in Politico:

"Since Election Day, I’ve been overwhelmed by anguished calls, emails and conversations from you, my wealthy friends, who, for the first time, are confronting the real possibility that our cozy utopian, urban, pluralistic lifestyles may be in peril. I share your fear. And with good reason.

Three years ago, in these pages, I warned you that the pitchforks were coming. I argued that 30 years of rising and accelerating inequality would inevitably lead to some sort of populist revolt that would disrupt the fantastic lives we elites enjoy. I cautioned that any society which allows itself to become radically and indefensibly unequal eventually faces either an uprising or a police state—or both.  And here we are."

All the rich may fear an uprising, but not all of them, I fear, fear a police state.  Though given ample opportunity to see a more equal society works better for all, many of them can't stop sucking all the blood they can get.  If there's a tax they must avoid it or end it.  There isn't a wage that can't be lower. There isn't a lie that can't be spread if it means a destructive industry can squeeze out more money for a little longer. And if there's a way to even temporarily keep raking in the blood with slave labor overseas, they do it, and pretend it's not their fault, it's that dreaded Invisible Hand, against which they are powerless.

Now the Vampires, pretending to be on the side of the Zombies, are in power, and the comparative economic quiet could well be deceiving--it's only been six months but with the progress made by the Obama administration being reversed, and even older institutional structures being smashed, the damage may be suddenly obvious, and it could be quite bad quite quickly.  It may take more than the promised industrial jobs not materializing, but even that could make the Vampires sweat, if the Zombies get restless.

Then we'll see, but Zombies v. Vampires may not be a fantasy after all.

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