Will capitalism survive the zombies?

Part 1 of a 2-part story

On June 8, people in zombie attire showed up at a Special Olympics event in Madison, Wis. in order to protest an appearance by Gov. Scott Walker, said the Zombie Rights Campaign. They held a calm and silent protest against Walker’s anti-worker stance.

Kelly Kloeping, vice-president for communications for Special Olympics Wisconsin, said that the protesters were respectful, and did not cause disruption.

Erika Wolf, field organizer and lobbyist for the United Council of University of Wisconsin Students, noted that the zombie theme was “interesting and eye-catching.” She said it showed that when rights are taken away the result is an uprising.

These days we see more and more protest actions involving the use of the shocking, morbidly humorous zombie imagery. The growth of the zombie subculture and its appearance in political protests begs the question: How would the modern political climate in our capitalist society react and adapt to a zombie invasion?

The question was explored by political scientist Dan Drezner, in an essay he wrote for Foreign Policy magazine.

While the very notion was both morbid and humorous, Drezner considered the possibility of a zombie outbreak as though it were just another world issue – like terrorism, climate change, or an economic crisis.

From books like Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy (which juxtaposed modern zombie and vampire culture with moral dilemmas and Freudian analysis) to the popular Resident Evil film series, countless possibilities and theories have been addressed regarding the creatures.

“Zombies have clawed their way to the top of book best-seller lists in the last decade,” said Drezner, “with literature ranging from how-to survival manuals to reinterpretations of early Victorian fiction,” he added, addressing the recent alternate history book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is being considered for film adaptation.

But how, he explored, would all these theories and stories measure up against real-world situations? Drezner noted that zombies were different from other occult creatures (like vampires or mummies) in that the final solution for a ‘zombie apocalypse’ would most likely be elimination or subjugation of the creatures by our hand, or the elimination of us by theirs. Pragmatists would say that, while providing a threat to humanity, very little radical change to human behavior would occur as a result of a zombie invasion.

That fact does not, however, render positive human reactions to the crisis improbable. In fact, in a report in Prospect, writer Paul Waldman arrived at the conclusion that a natural reaction among normal people, in the case of a zombie plague, would be a growth in teamwork and initiative.

In a column on MT Pundit, Rusty Shackleford wrote, “When the zombie apocalypse comes, capitalism breaks down, too – people aren’t going to be exchanging money for goods and services. And if you think your private health insurer is going to be paying claims for treatment of zombie bites, you’re living in a dream world.”

Seemingly, from a modern sociopolitical viewpoint, vampire culture, in contrast to that of zombies, is the other side of the proverbial coin.

Through films like Daybreakers and Interview with the Vampire were deep-thinking and progressive in their orientation many modern forms of the genre, like the TV series The Vampire Diaries and the Twilight films, depict vamps as pasty-faced, supposedly ‘high-class’ elitists, engaging in petty bushwa soap opera-type affairs.

The question to be asked of them is, “You’ve been living for thousands of years, and this is what you choose to make of it?”

Mark Kingwell, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, in a piece in The Globe and Mail, equated current ideas of vampires with capitalism.

“It’s the system itself that puts the bite on us,” he remarked. He said that it “drains us of lifeblood,” and “poisons us with longing just so it can keep us alive as a barely living, will-destroyed food source. Vampires and their kept ones are therefore synecdoches for relentless growth, bubbling post-industrial markets, derivatives trades, credit-default swaps, leveraged buyouts and inflated spectral currency.”

And, it was, after all, Karl Marx who said, “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”

Photo: One of many zombies protesting the appearance of Gov. Scott Walker at a Wisconsin Special Olympics event. Zombie Rights Campaign 



Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.