14 April 2015
Rise of the Undead Pandemic
Civilizations have feared the undead for over 4000 years. The genesis of zombies is as old as written history, the first being mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In recent times, zombies have taken over the mainstream airwaves. Films and videogames such as, Resident
Evil have given the audience of how realistic the endoftimes can happen. Since new discoveries of diseases, theories have emerged on how the “ZArmageddon” can occur during modern times. In our advancing times, new medicine is being created to prolong life; can this also be our greatest downfall? The popularity of zombies amongst American mainstream can be attributed to the idea of a fantastical scenario, turning it into a surreal reality.
The idea of the undead roaming the earth is not centralized, although it has traveled across different times, different plains and different cultures. As one of the first great work of literature, The
Epic of Gilgamesh, mentions the undead coming back to life to devour the living. An interpretation from the literature describing the first mentioning of the hellbent corpses, Maureen G. Kovacs, a translator for www.ancienttexts.org , annotates,”...I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld, I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down, and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!” (“Epic” 3). The Encyclopedia Britannica informs us about a ghoul ,”...stalked the desert, often in the guise of an attractive woman, trying to distract travelers, and, when successful, killed and ate them” (“Ghoul” 1). The only known way to kill a ghul is by striking it on it’s head swiftly once, twice and it’ll reanimate.
Jiangshi, according to
The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead, is a creature raised from the dead of a once living person that is known to devour the living’s qi or life force.
depicted in figure 1, are also known in various parts of Asia like Vietnam, Japan, and Korea; they can be thwarted by
I Ching practitioners using different methods including blood of a black dog, fire, and mirrors. From it’s archaic history to modern times, zombies have been feared by the living for many millenia crossing multiple continents and know no cultural bounds.
Today, our idea of zombies stem from one man, George A. Romero. Romero’s movie,
“Night of the Living Dead”, as shown in figure 2, is known as the beginning of the zombie fever in the Western world. In the early stage of zombification in the West, the origin of the outbreak was never revealed in the initial movies and books. After the turn of the 20th century, zombies in the mainstream erupted and took on a life of its own. Authors and creators of fiction felt the need to fill in the provenance of zombies; it has ranged from undiscovered diseases, new medicine gone awry, or even military biological weapons. The zombies of yesteryear was mystifying and enigmatic, but todays Z’s origins have given audiences around the world true terror and horror.
People should not only fear the undead but the means of infection as well. A parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that causes toxoplasmosis is an example of a disease that controls the brain and leaves the host in a zombielike status. According to the CDC, more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, but most of the population have developed an immune system defense against this parasite. Before recent news of genetic modification and pharmaceuticals,
Umbrella Corporation, a fictional bioengineering pharmaceutical company in the video game Resident Evil, dabbled in the idea of genetic modifications biological weaponry. In the video game