Noam Chomsky – On the Zombie Apocalypse
Student: Why is there a preoccupation with the zombie apocalypse right now?
Noam Chomsky: My guess is that it’s a reflection of fear and desperation. The United States is an unusually frightened country, and in such circumstances, people concoct, maybe for escape or relief, [narratives] in which terrible things happen.
Fear in the United States is actually a pretty interesting phenomenon. It actually goes back to the colonies — there’s a very interesting book by a literary critic, Bruce Franklin, called War Stars. It’s a study of popular literature…from the earliest days to the present, and there are a couple of themes that run through it that are pretty striking.
For one thing, one major theme in popular literature is that we’re about to face destruction from some terrible, awesome enemy, and at the last moment we’re saved by a superhero, or a super-weapon — or, in recent years, high school kids going to the hills to chase away the Russians.
There’s a sub-theme: it turns out this enemy, this horrible enemy that’s going to destroy us, is someone we’re oppressing. So you go back to the early years, the terrible enemy was the Indians.
The colonists, of course, were the invaders…whatever you think about the Indians, they were defending their own territory. One passage [in the Declaration of Independence] is a list of bills of indictment against King George III...one of them is that he unleashed against [the colonists] the merciless Indian savages, whose known way of warfare is torture and destruction and so on.
Well, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that, and was a great figure of the Enlightenment, knew quite well that it was the merciless English savages whose known way of warfare was destruction and murder and were taking over the country and driving out and exterminating the natives. But it’s switched in the Declaration of Independence...That's another sign of the same concern.
After that, it became the slaves. There was going to be a slave revolt…and the slave population, the black population, was going to rise up and kill all the men, rape all the women, and destroy the country.
And it goes into modern times, with Hispanic narco-traffickers who are going to come in and destroy this society…and these are real fears, that’s a lot of what lies behind the extremely unusual gun culture in the United States. We just have to have guns to protect ourselves from the United Nations, the federal government, aliens, and zombies, I suppose.
I think when you break it down, much of it is just a recognition — at some level of the psyche — that if you’ve got your boot on somebody’s neck, there’s something wrong, and that they people you’re oppressing may rise up and defend themselves.
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