The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

Another Take on the Zombie-Toxoplasmosis Idea

Here at the ZRC we’ve reported quite a few times on the hysterical Zombie-bashing that results when journalists learn about Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disorder whose precise effects are as yet unknown, but which may subtly and slightly alter behavior.

Cracked put out a book flogging the disease in connection with a ‘Zombie Apocalypse’.

Pop-science ‘journalists’ love to cite it when talking about Zombies in the media.

The fact, however, is that rates of infection vary wildly, and even in societies like France where perhaps 80%, perhaps even more, of the population carries the parasite… no ‘Apocalypse’.

So when google told us about yet another journalist talking Toxoplasma gondii, I was prepared to be annoyed. Instead, it was the jumping off point for an interesting take on the larger philosophical issue of what it means to be human:

The evidence is that T. gondii can’t exert the same level of control over humans that it has over rats. It has the right tools, but it doesn’t quite know how this particular model works.

Nevertheless, it’s an unsettling thought. While we’re reconciled to the idea of disease in our body, diseases of the mind still carry a tremendous stigma. Maybe this is because we’ve grown to view the body as a fleshy extension of our mind. Our identity – the human soul – is incorporeal, and immutable. Cut off a toe and you’re still you. The toe isn’t.

We project this fantasy even beyond death, insisting that as our mortal remains crumble into compost, the fragment that is “us” somehow lives on.

We’ve just about reached the point where we can start talking openly about mental illness, that there is some ideal state of mind from which we can get displaced, that the gears of the mind sometimes run too fast or too slow. But we still prefer that ideal state.

So ask yourself this: if I could test your blood, and reveal that, most likely, a parasite was responsible for your convivial nature, or your love of roller-coasters, would you want it removed?

AMC’s acclaimed drama The Walking Dead aired on terrestrial TV on Sunday, the story of a group of survivors struggling to keep their humanity in the face of a zombie apocalypse. In the run up, Channel 5 took out full-page ads in newspapers to ask readers “WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?”.

With the triumph of microbes such as T. gondii, the distinction may not be as clear as we’d like it to be.

Precisely so, Guardian journo, precisely so. Can’t we get past the limited and pre-scientific state of mind that arbitrarily and artificially divides the person from their body? This false dualism aids Anti-Zombie bigotry, because it allows those who are inclined to dislike Zombies to simply imagine that the ‘soul’ or personhood has left a body if it’s been reanimated from the dead, and thus discount their present humanity.

All because they might be a little bit shambly.

So, to the very limited extent that it has influence, this parasite might alter our minds, and thus our conception of what it means to be human. Does that make us all ‘Zombies’? Or should it simply make us all more sympathetic to the plight OF Zombies, of people, like ourselves, who might be dealing with a physiological transformation beyond their complete control?

Does knowing that you might be a little bit ‘Zombie’ yourself, in this analogy, help you to empathize with the real deal? We hope so, here at the ZRC. We also hope that people remain open to the possibilities that such transformations need not be entirely negative, as Frank Swain outlined. Sure, you might be Undead, but hey, the reduced reliance on oxygen can be a real perk if you like scuba diving. Likewise, maybe a tiny parasite in your Living brain makes you a roller coaster fan.

Can’t we all see the benefits in some of these changes?

Can’t we all keep an open-mind about a somewhat radically different state of existence? Who knows? The next Zombie to catch a break from a more scientific and less judgmental understanding of their condition might be you.


About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.

Comments

4 Responses to “Another Take on the Zombie-Toxoplasmosis Idea”

  1. thank you for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting info. “The rule is perfect in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” by Mark Twain.

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