Brian Anse Patrick
Zombology: Zombies and the Decline of the West (and Guns)
Arktos Media, 2014
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the author of this review when it was written, Prof. Brian Anse Patrick passed away on the night of December 26/27 at the far too premature age of 62 after suffering from cancer. He was well-known to many as the author of numerous books published by Arktos and elsewhere, as a Professor of Communication at the University of Toledo, as a championship target shooter and advocate for gun rights, as a CCW permit instructor, as well as through his many lectures and interviews on the subjects of propaganda and the American gun rights movement. We at Counter-Currents express our condolences to his many friends and family. Prof. Patrick was a truly American original in the best sense of the word, a champion of the pioneering spirit, and he will be missed.
Want to know why our world is going to hell? Brian Anse Patrick has a theory. It could be wrong. Most theories are. But it could also be right. One thing’s for sure . . . it’s a lot less boring than all the other theories out there. So we should hear him out on this one. At the very least, we’ll be entertained.
So, basically, it all starts and ends with zombies. But are zombie the cause or the effect of Western civilization’s decline? Are they the disease or the symptom? Or perhaps both? If so, how can zombies – as horror movie creatures, quasi-religious symbols, and/or mass-marketing phenoms – have such emotional resonance with so many people? And what does all this have to do with firearms? These are some of the questions Patrick asks in his engrossing book, Zombology: Zombies and the Decline of the West (and Guns).
Did you know that rifle manufacturers now market lines of “zombie killer” weapons? One company, Mossberg, has produced a lever-action shotgun which uses standard .30-30 cartridges. Why would this be useful during a zombie apocalypse? Because, as Patrick puts it:
[W]here the commerce of everyday life has been disrupted and ammunition is no longer available in stores, finding or scavenging the ruins of civilization (or old farmhouses such as the one depicted in Night of the Living Dead) for a box of .30-30 cartridges, a standard cartridge dating from the eve of the twentieth century, might be easier than finding cartridges for AR-15 platform rifles.
These gun guys think of everything, don’t they?
In Zombology, Patrick stresses that if the zombie mythos can pervade the thoroughly mainstream and pragmatic culture of the National Rifle Association, like it did in 2012 during their 141st annual meeting in St. Louis, then exactly how far has it pervaded Western civilization? The answer is very far.
On one hand, zombies (or, killing them, really) is big business. Of course, there are hundreds of zombie-related movies, TV shows, and video games. Zombies appear in literature as well, most notably in the “. . . and Zombies” literary fiction parody sub-genre, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies perhaps being the archetypal example. Predictably, there are also various forms of zombie porn.
On university campuses for over a decade now, students have been engaging in refereed “Human Versus Zombie” (HVZ) contests, wherein the human team must hit members of the zombie team with Nerf gun darts before being tagged and turned into zombies themselves. HVZ has become a nationwide phenomenon, complete with its own Website.
Curiously enough, there is also the annual “zombie run” marathon held in Detroit. ZERT stands for Zombie Eradication Response Team and is a real thing. It is part of an International Zombie Collective, which offers instruction concerning the suppression of zombie outbreaks in various conditions. Members receive actual firearms training, along with official patches and T-shirts, all for an annual fee of $29.95. Even the US Center for Disease Control has made use of zombies by depicting a zompocalypse in its emergency training programs. Zombies are officially everywhere. Patrick notes that in 2011, a conservative estimate puts the contribution of zombie-related enterprises to the US economy at $5 billion.
On the other hand, zombies can be seen to typify the decline of the West. They can describe how many of us zombify ourselves when we resort to pharmaceuticals to “take the rough edges off the daily grind.” Zombies can also be seen as representative of how many Westerners have become zombie-like in our mindless mass-market consumerism. From a Rightist perspective, zombies also exemplify the “zombie-like masses of non-productive citizens” (Mitt Romney’s 47 percent) who are catered to and encouraged by our Left-wing, liberal elites. Patrick dedicates an entire chapter, “Citizen Zombie,” to this depressing topic. Again from a Rightist standpoint, Patrick draws parallels between zombies and the concern over the wave of Third World immigration which is currently threatening to devour the West. “Malthusian Anxieties,” he calls it. Just as with zombies, there are more of them than there are of us, he observes. And they just keep coming.
Perhaps even deeper than this, zombies embody the ennui and detachment many of us feel with our cultural institutions, whether they are national, religious, or otherwise. Patrick paraphrases William Manchester in his writings on Winston Churchill as saying that at the height of the British Empire, the entire elite class in Britain had the same education, read the same books, and generally shared the same patriotic outlook. This sense of identity is what made Britain and other Western nations great, and is conspicuously lacking in the West today. Just as we have become untethered from our ancient identities and institutions, zombies have become untethered from the cycle of life and death. And the results, in both cases, are terrifying. (Patrick also has an interesting aside concerning what he terms the “Negro God,” which is the depiction of blacks as being noble and heroic while white men are usually portrayed unsympathetically in zombie films.)
According to Patrick, Western civilization may have passed the “weirdo-density threshold” beyond which zombies have become a near-integral part of our collective consciousness (or unconsciousness). The idea of group psychology crops up a lot in Zombology, so expect many references to Carl Jung and Jungian psychoanalysis. As Patrick puts it, “The zombie phenomenon represents a profound disturbance in the Western collective unconscious caused by anxieties over the decline of Western civilization.”
But it’s not all gloom and doom. The great zombie phenomenon also teaches self-reliance, especially with guns. In fact, it is generally recognized that the best way to “kill” a zombie is through the Central Nervous System Disconnect (CNSD). This is just a fancy way of saying “blow its bloody head off,” and what better way to do this than with a loaded firearm? Firearms are the great equalizer in the human war against zombies, and, as such, we owe a lot to zombies for their current high demand.
Patrick points out that George Romero’s iconic film Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968, the same year as the influential Federal Gun Control Act. Since then, membership in the NRA has more than quintupled. Patrick states explicitly that “zombie consciousness proselytizes for gun culture.” More than this, the zombie culture not only reflects current firearms fads and fetishes, but informs them, too. It is the classic case of life imitating art.
But, conveniently for both the Right and Left, this particular art does not and cannot imitate life. In real life, labeling a group or race of people as a threat and targeting them for death would be considered politically incorrect, to say the least. On the other hand, there are no activist groups lobbying for zombies in Washington. As a result, zombies are a win-win for the modern West. The Left gets to fret over its existential ennui, and the Right gets to play out its favorite survivalist fantasies and shoot up as many bad guys are possible. Is there any wonder that the “zombie consciousness” is so widespread?
The West, as Patrick tells us, has always perceived itself to be in a state of decline. He discusses Homer’s assertion that his was a “degenerate age.” According to many Christian tenets, including Original Sin, we are all most likely going to Hell. Then, of course, there’s Edward Gibbon and his six-volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a decline so gradual that it took over a thousand years. So, are zombies any different? Perhaps they are simply a manifestation of what has been a part of the West throughout its history? In the past, Westerners were concerned with the Second Coming. Since the Second World War, we’ve worried about UFOs, Bigfoot, and Communists, and, more recently, catastrophic global warming scenarios. Now, it seems that we have settled upon zombies as our existential doom du jour (or du siècle, who knows?). Perhaps our brains need zombies as much as zombies need our brains?
In any event, in Zombology Brian Patrick makes a convincing argument that zombies represent much more than just animated corpses that can walk, talk, and devour. They are a manifestation of what is actually menacing Western society these days, both from without and from within. In his final chapter, he provides ten rules to follow in order to not become a zombie. But these rules can apply to anything that’s threatening us. They boil our dilemma down to the same zero-sum game that human protagonists must play out in nearly all the zombie movies. It’s either us or them. So we’d better internalize these rules soon, because it seems that it’s only a matter of time before we, that is, the men of the West, will be playing a new version of this zero-sum game. And there is a good chance that we won’t be fighting zombies.