A truly great metaphor is hard to kill. Despite detractors and naysayers, the zombie has clawed its way into the modern psyche as a denizen of the living death of a world we’ve created for ourselves. Joblessness, environmental disasters, tea parties – just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the dead refuse to stay dead. Elsewhere on this blog I’ve written about the origin of zombies in Voodoo, and I mentioned in passing the connection with the golem. The golem is a mythical Jewish creature that serves the role of protector of the oppressed (one can’t help but think of the Democratic Party). It is strong, dedicated to its task, brainless and soulless (one can’t help but think of the Religious Right). Like the zombie, the golem has no inherent ability to think for itself, and it must be animated by a magical word written on its forehead.
One of the most famous golem stories involves the Golem of Prague, defender of the oppressed Jews in that city in the Middle Ages. The Prague connection also forever ties the golem together with robots in Karel Capek’s 1921 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the very origin of the word “robot.” Like the golem the robot putatively has no soul. It too is controlled by a code written precisely for it. Unfortunately on my one trip to Prague back in 1991, I didn’t know to look for the golem – I did find the statue of Jan Hus, however. Right around the corner the golem lurked, standing guard over the oppressed. It is a powerful image when the world is in such a state.
With the recent release of George Romero’s Survival of the Dead, the zombie has been given renewed life. Watching the Republican Party gearing up for a major thrust at the very soul of America, lining up the local BP station to support big oil, spouting false rhetoric about what the Bible says, I think I’d rather take my chances with the zombies. Does anyone out there happen to have a golem for sale, just in case?