I’ve been enthralled with zombies of late. It started off with Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set, a five-part programme shown in the run-up to Hallowe’en, wherein zombies invade Britain, unbeknown to the contestants in the Big Brother house. Guys, watch it if you can. It’s awesome.
Brooker is one of my favourite writers. I enjoy his misanthropic colums in The Guardian and read an article he wrote about the genesis of Dead Set and why he is fascinated with zombies: ‘Zombies are the misanthrope's monster of choice. They represent fear and disgust of our fellow man. The anonymous animal masses. The dumb, shuffling crowd.’
That’s exactly it. What’s more terrifying than the crush of humanity? The crush of humanity with a taste for brains! I hate crowds and will do anything possible to avoid one. I will work late so that I miss the rush-hour traffic; the crush and press of single-minded bodies packing onto a train and trampling whatever is in their path. I am traumatised whenever I find myself in a surprise!crowd. I go into a concert knowing I’m going to be surrounded by
zombies other people and that I’m going to get crushed; if I end up in the middle of an impromptu crowd, I have to get outoutoutomg. Please God, spare me the flashmob.
I think that’s why I’ve always appreciated Romanticism – the firm belief in I, the individual. Not for me the row upon row of boots waiting at stations described in TS Eliot’s poetry, or *shudder* a nightclub like Cream where you have to push your way around. I believe in the individual, above all. I distrust the braying, sheep-like crowd.
Which is a bit of a shame, being English and all. Because, UK? What is wrong with you? If it wasn’t bad enough that we disgusted the world by attempting to lynch the Bulger murderers or that we marched on London with bouquets and endless tears (BLOOD ON UR HANDS!11) for Diana, we’ve had a month of absolute, embarrassing hysteria.
There was the Russell Brand affair, where we wanted Brand beheaded or something for pranking Andrew Sachs on television. Then there was some person booted off X Factor who was a martyr and finally, the depressing, squalid death of Baby P. The press howled for heads to roll. Facebook groups call for a return to capital punishment. People gleefully share the names and addresses of those involved – just wait until we get our hands on them. People leave bouquets and weep and wail for the child. We should all be ashamed, they say, wringing their hands.
Decorum: alien concept.
There was a story I read some years back that reduced me to tears (lol, irony) and which has always stayed with me. An old man, Alfred Wilkins, had been accused of paedophilia. He was subsequently cleared of the charges, but whether he was guilty or not is irrelevant. The people in his area turned on him. They put bricks through his window, stole his belongings, beat and harassed him in the street and reduced him to living in the kitchen of his home as he was too afraid to even enter the front rooms due to constant violence. The community around him did not step in to help. Here was a person outside the law, tainted by suspicion and too afraid to seek help from either quarter. He was guilty! He was a paedophile and We Hate Paedos. Eventually, he and his dog were suffocated to death in a deliberate arson attack. It’s okay; vigilante justice prevailed. We Brits really like to see justice served.
Almost as much as we enjoy the media circus each time a new cause is brought to our attention.
When toddler Jamie Bulger was murdered, the British tabloids listed in endless detail the torture he endured in pornographic detail bolded and in CAPS and, just in case you wanted snappy facts to throw out at your eager audience, handy bullet-point summaries of each disgrace inflicted upon him. Baby P suffers a lonely, torturous existence for seventeen months, succumbing to death after a final, brutal blow. (This blow, of course, described in detail in the press.) And there we have it: sad and terrible death reduced to titillation. Last week, we protested at Baby P’s death. This week, John Sergeant has been ousted from Strictly Come Dancing and at the time of writing, more than 2,000 people have called the BBC to complain that they had wasted their time and money calling in to support him. Um.