Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Of Zombies and the Western World

As if in rebuttal of a passing point I made about the significance of the popularity of Zombies in the Western world, British author J.K. Rowling has pointed out on the Harry Potter web site that the zombie concept originates in African Voodoo and was popularized by Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller routine.

The zombie is not a traditional British idea, she wrote, and her villain Voldemort’s use of various Horcruxes as repositories of parts of his soul did not fall in that category.

This would seem to rubbish the connection I made -- unless of course, we take into account that the "undead" are an essential part of the Vampire myth that British authors, most famously Bram Stoker, brought into the Western cultural mainstream.

Furthermore, the Haitian Voodoo “origin” of the Zombie is inextricably linked to the horrors visited on Africans by slave-masters ranging from Belgium’s King Leopold II (who promoted rubber production targets in the Congo by having the arms of less productive workers sliced off), to British sea captains who dominated the deadly transatlantic slave trade and sadistic plantation owners.

The reference to Michael Jackson popularizing the zombie dance brings up a whole new cultural aspect because that brilliant performer was the epitome of the soul killing self-hate inculcated in generations of African Americans. The Thriller gripped not only with on-stage rhythm and movement but with the pathos of his excruciating real life bid to “become White” through skin bleaching and plastic surgery.

Rowling’s effort to disassociate culturally from zombies cannot succeed because of Britain's key role in shaping colonial era slavery and industrial era factory work.

It is interesting that patriotism has also blinded Rowling to her own testament as a creative artist.

The theme of Voldemort defeated by love making a surreptitious comeback through an army of corrupt followers is an exact reprise of the British Empire’s helplessness before Mahatma Gandhi and its return as an underground imperialism of drug traffickers and money launderers.

The silent resurgence from defeat of a monstrous evil (supported by a great army of soulless Orcs), is also the prophetic theme of another great British story teller, J. R. Tolkein.

The Lord of the Rings was written over the 1917-1946 period, almost exactly the time when Gandhi was leading India to freedom.

I take it as a heartening sign that both these creative souls, speaking from the insuppressibly Shakespearean heart of the British people, predicate the inevitable defeat of evil committed in their name.

No comments: