Zombies & Vampires, Oh My!

Another essay I’ve contributed to  Vinay Gupta‘s, The Future We Deserve; coming together live on Appropedia.

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.

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17 thoughts on “Zombies & Vampires, Oh My!

  1. Excellent article. Let me throw a couple of branches on the fire (from stuff I wrote elsewhere.) We are going to have to heal ourselves while still in the belly of the beast. Getting outside the system is too difficult for now. We have to become the constructive viruses within the system, and change it enough so that further moves become possible.

    I don’t think the point is to scream our lungs out at our fellow choir members, although a bit of mutual support and encouragement has real value on what sometimes can be a long and lonely road. The real juice will start to flow when we figure out how to interrupt the snoring sleep-in that grips suburbia. When I talk about some kind of small group process, I mean something that has a total awakening impact, not just some one-and-done single issue event.
    How did folks like us sharing in this forum arrive at our world-views? If you are like me, it took quite a while, a lot of living, and a lot of help from my friends, those in the flesh and those in books or making music, and a lot of plain old pig luck.

    We need to come up with a process that raises people’s consciousness about this world of ours a hell of a lot faster than it took us. It has happened before in other contexts, and it really needs to happen pronto now. If we assume it won’t work, people are too set in there ways, nobody will listen, etc etc — then we won’t do anything, and we will become the prophets of our own defeat.

    Let me quote Derrick a little further on in that paragraph: “I’m asking you to be responsible for your own thinking, responsible to your own heart, answerable to your own understanding. I’m asking you to think and feel and understand for yourself.

    If you start doing that, civilization will begin to crumble before your eyes. Because above all else, civilization cannot survive free men and women who feel and think and act from their own hearts and minds, free men and women who are willing to act in defense of those they love.”

    Stirring words, appropriate for an ending to a great speech, or a great book such as Endgame. But will those words, or that book be adequate to stir sufficient numbers to take up their challenge? Must give us pause.

    Then what will it take? I have suggested ten thousand intensive small action/study groups that would give rise to tens of thousands of deeply informed, comitted, and powerfully active members to transform the way people look at their world and live in it. How would those groups function, what themes would they work with, how would they coordinate with each other? Those are things that can be worked out on the basis of successful models of already established groups. Some creativity and novelty and room for diverse experimentation would be essential.

    We will learn and grow from our beginnings, and venture to create the communal processes that till now we have only dreamed of. The false idea that we could make significant change through atomic individual efforts would fade away. Working and sharing together will give us the elusive power we came to realize was lacking in prior efforts. The world truly and desperately awaits the processes of its deliverance. To venture will bring success….

    • Thank you Mike for your response. You’re right, we need to look at how we arrived at this point, recognizing the great big dose of luck – good or bad – that was a big part of it, and look for ways to not quite institutionalize or “automate” the process, but find ways to facilitate it for others.

      Just beginning to recognize the need begins to answer the question of how. I’m finding that there are more openings for contact and collaboration than we might expect out of the hermit’s habits that tend to go with the kind of introspection I’ve been caught up in for so long. Part of why I wrote this essay was to demystify the Zombies and Vampires phenomena. Demystify both the fascination we all tend to have with these archetypes as well as poke fun at the assumption that we live in some video game surrounded by mindless automatons serving merely as barriers to free movement or dark conspirators out to destroy life at any cost. These exist, they impede our quest for generating communities of “free men and women who feel and think and act from their own hearts and minds….” But….

      Zombies and Vampires are dangerous and frightening IN THE DARK. Exposing them to the light of day destroys at least part of their hold over us. Admitting their “reality” and getting on with our lives frees up energy otherwise used up by the dread of the unsaid.

      For myself, I’m committed to writing as a major tool in this process. Not just essays like these but poetry and fiction. It’s a big part of how we got here as you’ve said. Without the deeply felt experiences we’ve all received from what we’ve managed to find written we could never have gotten to the point of questioning. For all the benefits of this medium; being able to get ephemeral writing – of the moment – out and potentially in front of, if not a large readership, at least one that is potentially widespread and diverse; there is still something that can only be carried out within the deliberate distillation process of slow writing physically distributed and deposited about in a way that allows it to continue to exist in time beyond the moment of its creation.

      Beyond this, still relatively isolated process of writing and its dissemination, there need be precisely what you advocate, the widespread yet direct, face to face contact within small groups. For me the term Symposia has always come to mind as a model for this. Not necessarily as an academic exercise, but a civic expression in the spirit in which they were first meant – at that point the Academy was being proposed within a framework that took for granted the primacy of civic responsibilities.

      It’s a tough job, untangling the human from civilization. It’s a task whose requirements are hidden in plain sight. The meaning of each of these simple words is so tangled within our various assumptions that just ferreting out what is intended by such a statement is perhaps the toughest part. This needs to be done at all levels and with all of our artifacts and their methods of creation. If this doesn’t take place amongst people interacting directly with each other, forging and building interrelationships with each other, then we haven’t broken clear of the paralyzing strictures the madness of civilization have imposed on us. As I wrote in Telegraph, this tapping out of messages is only a first step taken out of necessity verging on desperation. The real work begins after contact is made, within the direct connections that are then possible, within the havens we carve out in our awareness that let us pick our way amongst all those Vampires and Zombies, Oh My!

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful and illuminating reply. I am learning from you. I want to share with you some thoghts I have had about Derrick Jensen and his work. I would be really interested what you think of it?

    I want to share where I am regarding Derrick Jensen, as a result of this forum and the process of consideration it has evoked in me, for which I am truly grateful.
    I have read five of DJ’s books and come away with a profound respect for him as a writer, an activist, and a person. I consider myself his friend, student, and admirer, although we have never met. He is a deep and clear thinker, and an outstanding polemicist. I doubt there is anyone who could win over him in a debate. He has a deep and compassionate heart. He is a true asset to all who seek a way to a better world for all beings.
    Perhaps his greatest gift is the ability to strip away our illusions that protect us from confronting the nightmare that our culture (world-wide) has become. He is a merciless exposer of all our blind spots, and protective layers of denial. He forces us to see our complicity in the horrors that are being committed every day around us. We really need that awakening of real conscience and awareness of our responsibility to act to end the abusive culture that we are part of.
    Having highlighted what I find admirable in DJ, now about his dark side.
    For true believers in DJ’s complete “message”, what I have to say may be anathema, but we should learn to listen even to those we disagree with. A portion of a poem by Holderlin has meant a lot to me:

    Many of the holy ones
    Have we named,
    Since our life has been a conversation,
    And we have been able to
    Hear from one another.

    Let’s keep in mind that we all have a lot to learn and share with each other, in order to make a better world for all.

    Having received a lot of abuse in my early years, I think I can understand perhaps better than some where Derrick is coming from on the “violence” issue. Obviously this question is the one that has most divided sharers on this blog. As well it should. It is a crucial fork in the road.

    If I were to sit down and share with Derrick, there is one question that I would sooner or later have to ask him about his early relationship to his father. Didn’t you hate him and wish you could kill him? I sure did feel that and think that about my father. In all his pretty open sharing about his early days, he has never answered that question. With great trepidation (for I know how people, often rightfully, question the validity of “armchair analysis”) I want to venture a guess based on what he has shared, and my own experience. I hope if he should read this he will consider it as a sincere gift offered in love by a fellow sufferer. I Truly would never do anything intended to hurt this man who has done so much to further a cause that is dear to me.
    So here goes. I think Derrick may be trying to release his anger at the abuse he suffered. It is interesting though that in all his suggested strategies and tactics there is nothing that qualifies as full bore “kill the bastards” violence. Its pretty tame stuff by the standards of one who thinks maximum destruction and death to the evil destroyers of the earth and all that is worth fighting for. One would have thought that would be the first card off the top of the deck from one who went through what he did. There was a time in my life when that was the first impulse I would have. A lot of inner work has changed that for me, but I will never be without the scars that hatred worked on me for all those early years. Recovery is a never ending process.

    So that’s it. I had to get that out. Take it for what its worth. I know that each of is profoundly complex, and to know another is to enter into a mystery. Only Derrick could confirm or reject the possibility I have indicated. I in no way think less of Derrick, whatever his reaction might be.
    I know I have stuck my neck out in writing this, but something inside made me do so. So be it.

    I guess I am trying to make sense of how a brilliant thinker like DJ could come up with some of the goofy sabotage ideas in Endgame as a real solution to the problems we face? I mean knocking off cell phone towers??

  3. Antonio, my apologies. Somehow, I thought you were showcasing Vinay’s essays.

    I think this essay nails it. Engaging with the vampires, their power and their promises, is at the root of the breach that occurred some 6,000 years ago.

    All the best for your work.

  4. Nature is a noun too small to contain the vastness it feebly pretends to contain. Perhaps the only way to truly approach nature is with the profound humility demanded by an ultimate Mystery.

    As Heidegger says, we are “thrown” into this vortex of reality, lacking any certainty as to what it means, or even what it is. Our task is to find the hidden compass that can guide us towards the light of understanding, liberation, and infinite love. The clues are everywhere manifest, but invisible until we open the inner senses to reveal them. Until then, we are all lost and wandering in the forest of our own unrecognized projections. The realization of our brokeness is the beginning of our awakening. Finding others to share the common journey is a further step towards a way beyond our confusion.
    ——————————————————————-

    The creative group process will be the fiery crucible within which the means for human transcendence to the next level of cosmic competence will be forged.
    ————————————————————

    The only problem needing all our focus and consideration is how to reach the next evolutionary level. It is only from there that our pressing problems will find their true resolution.

  5. The Cosmic Seed that preceded the Marvelous Efleuration, ignorantly named the Big Bang by those conditioned to violent perceptions, contained the basic encoding of all our future initiations or growth challenges. We need only transform ourselves to the level of competence required to turn these crises into opportunities for transcendence.

  6. Don’t let “realists” discourage your dreams. A society without creative agents of imagination is as good as dead.

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