June 3, 2010

What Happened to the Middle Class?

From "Zombie Nation," posted at MUTE, 2006-05-10 by Paul Helliwell :

The term zombie entered the English language as a result of slavery, in Robert Southey’s History of Brazil. William B. Seabrook’s book The Magic Island, a first-person account of Haitian voodoo rituals (like Maya Deren’s much later Divine Horsemen), inspired White Zombie, 1931, the first zombie movie. In this we see a sugar plantation owned by Bela Lugosi and staffed by zombies. One of the shambling beasts falls into the grinding machinery and becomes at one with the product. This images anxiety about stolen labour on the part of both producer and consumer embodied in what at once unites them and keeps them separate – the commodity. By 1968 and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, filmed in de-industrialising Pittsburgh, their passivity was the passivity of the mass non-violent resisters campaigning for civil rights. They lumbered because they were inevitable, the mass in human flesh to be sadistically destroyed, interested only in increasing the number of zombies – apocryphally by eating their victim’s brains. By Dawn of the Dead, 1978, their very existence is overproduction: ‘When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth’ – zombies were the proletarian dead proletarian shopping. ‘But why have they all come to the Mall?’ asks one of the living, ‘I don't know… I guess it must have meant something to them in their lives.’ For Web 2.0 users, like the human survivors in Dawn, incarcerated by the zombie hordes in a shopping mall where everything is free, this anxiety of stolen labour can only increase (despite the muzak). Beneath the glossy reflective surface of the commodity is putrifying zombie flesh – humanity is not superfluous in the age of globalised production but only its ‘creative’ part is recognised (leading to its haunting by the latest in a long line of unquiet Marxist spectres).
More at the link above. See also Elizabeth Warren.

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