Cannibalism has always been with us. Part of ritual, part of war, inspired by mental illness or empty stomachs, people have been eating people since there were people. So the recent rash of “zombie” attacks didn’t impress me enough to comment on it in last week’s zombie report. As far as I was concerned, it was the same old same old. A lot of people were really excited, however.
The most remarkable and zombie-like attack was the first one reported in Miami, where a naked Rudy Eugene ignored police orders to cease and desist eating the face of homeless man, Ronald Poppo. He couldn’t ignore a barrage of gunfire, although he did try. Eugene did eventually cease and desist. I haven’t seen anywhere whether or not it was a head shot that finally ended his life, but he didn’t rise to resume his attack. Not to take anything away from the victims or their relatives, but the rest of the “zombie” attacks in the news were the run-of-the-mill, “I Just Ate My Roommate” things that have been going on forever. The New Jersey man who cut himself open and threw pieces of his own intestines at police…that’s something differently weird entirely.
We have yet to have anyone really prove that a previously dead person has risen to eat the flesh of the living. There isn’t even any solid proof for the voodoo zombies of Haiti. So, let’s talk cannibals. There are cannibals all over the place. In our past, in our present, in our future, we’ve got plenty of cannibals. I’m not just talking headhunters in the Congo. Plenty of American cannibals. It is reported that American colonists in 1609 Jamestown got hungry enough to eat their dead.
The Donner Party were the most famous American cannibals, eating their dead when they became trapped in a snowy pass during their 1846 trip to a better life in the west.
They weren’t Americans, but the most famous incident of modern survival cannibalism occurred when a Uruguayan rugby team ate their dead friends and teammates to survive after a 1972 plane crash in the Andes mountains.
We are afraid of cannibals, of course. Who the hell wants to be eaten? Not me. Because, if you are eaten, you will eventually be pooped, and that’s just the way it is.
We are also afraid of the dead. Totally freaked out, afraid of the dead. We put them in boxes and we bury them away from us and with other dead people. We seal the hell out of their coffins for no real reason at all…except we are afraid that the contents will wake up and get out and come home.
People actually enjoyed the current wave of “zombie attacks.” There was a nearly festive air about the whole thing, even on serious news programs. There was a reason for the excitement. Cross cannibals with walking corpses and you have the scariest thing that most people can possibly imagine. You have zombies, and zombies are popular. Zombies are the scariest thing we can think of in a scary world, but the zombie apocalypse really wouldn’t be THAT bad, would it? A zombie apocalypse would wipe the slate clean for all of us, it would rid us of the world we have, a world we can’t control. We might not be able to stop our houses from being foreclosed on, we might be helpless in the face of pandemics and fuel shortages and terrorism, but a lot of us like to think that we have the zombie apocalypse thing under control. Some of us have hidden water and guns in a closet. Millions of us have watched shows and read books and dissected the mistakes of dead characters. We are ready for it, at least in our minds. If we can survive cannibal corpses, we can survive anything.