In Ellul‘s Propaganda he declares that individualist and mass societies are in effect the same thing, that the existence of unintegrated individuals is what makes mass society possible. Between a living culture and mass society we find the difference between soil and concrete. Soil consists of integrated particles of varying sizes and types existing in “communities” varying by depth and location, all part of a larger living system. To make concrete you must strip particles of their organic connections and create an aggregate of “individualized” and therefore interchangeable particles forced into a blend controlled by an outside deciding body. To this aggregate, the commodification of what had been soil, commodified water and lime are added to produce the commodity concrete. The result is unmoving, resisting and brittle; the makings of a tomb.
Today, those of us looking for a way forward recognize and chafe at forced commodification. We yearn to forge, create, develop and nurture connections that will integrate us into a living body. We are aware this requires us to make contact with others; but we feel isolated, surrounded by zombies and vampires.
Zombies are the commodified masses fantasizing about their individual freedoms. They maintain their fantasies by strictly forbidding any contact with reality from touching their “lives.” They are dangerous because they will react violently to anyone who appears not to be a zombie too.
Vampires are life-suckers, the un-Dead, who maintain their existence by actively removing the lifeblood of anything living they can overpower. They are dangerous because they are smart, powerful and ruthless. They make up that outside deciding body in the process of commodification. They will eagerly destroy anything that shows signs of life and they control the zombies.
We find ourselves isolated from living culture, afraid to be engulfed by zombies or annihilated to feed vampires.
This is our double-bind.
To integrate ourselves, to establish a living soil, requires a place, and it requires people – people and person apply to human and non-human beings alike. Zombies take up much of the space – what’s left after the vampires have killed what they could find of use to them. The remaining vibrantly living places are few and are constantly threatened by vampire depredations. They are so threatened and fragmented that taking them for our purposes, however laudable they might be, is an unacceptable impingement on what remains of their fabric. No “colonizing” national parks, no “joining” wild indigenous tribes.
This question of place is very difficult. It’s also a fluid and moving target as places degrade or fall out of use by the zombies with more or less of their potential restore-able fabric intact.
The question of people is equally difficult.
The key seems to have something to do with the nexus of individuality and integration. We’re individualistic, that trait has kept us from becoming zombies; and we desire integration, this is what kept us from becoming vampires.
We are all damaged goods living in damaged places. We’re aware of that too.
Zombies want nothing more than to be made into concrete and vampires are desperate to maintain their un-Dead powers. We want to be well, we want to heal, ourselves and our world. We want to experience life in all its particularity.
Zombies threaten us by engulfment.
Vampires threaten us if we engage. They are so powerful and so seductive. Their power and their “beauty” exhorts us to engage with them. If we do, they win. This has always been so.
How do we avoid engulfment by zombies and maintain disengagement from the vampire’s powers?
These questions will dominate our future.