But wait. Explaining today’s social movements in the physical world and providing insight into the tactics of cyberattacks are not the only things zombies are good for. They may also help us develop a deeper understanding of many recurrent patterns of history. Essayist and social commentator Andrei Codrescu even used the term “zombification” once in this context, noting that, twice during the 20th century (during the world wars), “suicidal mobs of followers gave up every thought in their heads for the sake of slogans that led to mass graves.” My only question about this is, “Just twice?”
It seems to me that the notion of being overcome by zombies — opponents pound-for-pound weaker than oneself, but collectively unstoppable — fits many times and places. Surely the waning days of the Roman Empire must have had the feel of being swarmed by zombies. The numberless barbarians who flooded the frontiers and sacked Rome and other centers of culture surely fit the zombie mold — at least that of the faster-moving kind featured in the Brad Pitt film.
For those who want to stick with a slower-moving zombie metaphor, think of how Native Americans must have felt at their inability to stop the slow, inexorable progress of settlers across America. Whether early on in the great wildernesses east of the Mississippi River, or later across the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and on to the Pacific, all the valor and skill of American Indians proved of little moment against the creeping tide of “civilization.” Truly a zombie apocalypse.