By Cindy Perman
Have you noticed that there’s a slow, shuffling feeling of dread and impending doom in this economy?
"We are in the midst of a zombie-craze. Zombies have reached never-before seen heights of popularity, appearing widely not only in film but also in comic books, graphic novels, literature, video games — major cities across North America have become home to organized zombie walks where sometimes hundreds of people dress as the risen dead and wander en masse creating gruesome flash mobs," Chris Moreman, an assistant professor of comparative religion at California State University East Bay, wrote in his research paper, "Dharma of the Living Dead: A Meditation on the Meaning of the Hollywood Zombie."
Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—that bastion of protection against infection, disease and doom—put out a Guide for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.
And the references to zombie banks, zombie capitalism, zombie economy and all sorts of zombie business are piling up like bloody coats at a zombie Christmas party.
In “Zombie Capitalism,” author Chris Harmon, who started the book several years before the recession started in 2008, argues that capitalism is simply insatiable and asks, hauntingly, “who can overcome?”
A “zombie bank” is as “a bank or financial institution with negative net worth,” according to Investopedia. And yet, “they continue to operate as a result of government backings or bailouts that allow these banks to meet debt obligations and avoid bankruptcy. Zombie banks often have a large amount of nonperforming assets on their balance sheets which make future earnings very unpredictable.”
"The large banks which dominate most of the lending in the United States are effectively zombie banks," well-known banking analyst Meredith Whitney said this summer. “You've got an expense structure that just doesn't match the revenue structure. So it's a classic issue of negative operating leverage. You don't buy institutions that have negative operating leverage."
And the zombie references aren’t just infiltrating the global financial system, they’re right in your backyard.
In “Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance,” authors Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson write that a “zombie economy” is “any financial situation that puts your stability and future in jeopardy.”
“In a zombie economy, there is a self-perpetuating sense of doom — the feeling that there is no solution; that the sickness is unstoppable and the predator unkillable; the fear that even those in command have little idea how to fix things,” they say.
So where does all this moaning, groaning and brain-eating come from?
The concept of zombies actually comes from Haitian folklore and voodoo mythology and has been closely associated with slavery as Haiti was a hub for the slave trade.
“The idea is that a sorcerer, who, through his magic, can turn someone into a zombie and use him to do work for him. Zombies would be used to work in fields,” Moreman explains.
So, it didn't originate as some monster in the backyard or Michael Jackson video, so much as being turned into a worker drone against your will.
“Today, people talk about turning someone into a zombie to do data entry!” Moreman quipped.
Actually, in present-day zombie movies, it’s not so much that there’s one “master” pulling all the strings, rather, it’s more mysterious forces, Moreman said, much like many people feel about the current financial crisis.
“A zombie is an empty vessel,” Moreman explained. “They’re automated. Empty of any kind of free will. They just move along in an empty kind of way,” Moreman said.
The one thread, however, is that “In every movie, there’s an instance where somebody recognizes a relationship with a zombie — one of my loved ones just became a zombie!” he explained.
Moreman said you can see it in the “Occupy” protests on Wall Street and around the world—in all the discontent with the distribution of wealth and state of the global economy.
Not only are some of the protesters LITERALLY dressed as zombies but “There’s kind of of an association that we are zombies — we are letting ourselves become zombies,” he said. “We’re drudging along in day to day life not being aware. Part of the joke in the movies is that the main character doesn’t even know the zombies are taking over.”
You might even call it the Zombie Indicator: Research has shown that during times of economic stress, the number of zombie movies being made goes up.
“Since 2000, the number of zombie movies made has just skyrocketed,” Moreman said. That was when the dot-com bubble burst and a year later, it was 9/11. Just as the economy was starting to get back on track, the 2008 financial crisis hit. And just when we thought the recession was over, the European financial crisis exploded.
Why is there such a connection between bad economies and zombie movies?
“There’s a general distrust of whoever’s in charge, which tends to be worse in bad times,” Moreman said.
So, quick recap: Impending sense of doom, distrust of those in charge and fear of being turned into an empty vessel worker drone.
In “Zombie Economics,” the authors offer several zombie personal finance lessons including “The Zombie on the Back Porch: Why Opening That Pile of Bills Will Save Your Life," "Don't Go Into the Graveyard: How and Why to Keep Your Job ... Even if You Hate It," and “Shooting Dad in the Head: Ending Your Relationship With the Financially Infected.”
And, with each month of emergency savings you stash away, you get more ammo to use against the zombies:
1 month = hammer
2 = hatchet
3 = pistol
4 = shotgun
5 = machine gun
6 = all of the above
You’ve got to ask yourself: Are you even the slightest bit prepared for a zombie apocalypse?
“There’s a dull bump, followed by an uneven rasping noise – like someone slowly sandpapering the walls. Could be the wind, you think to yourself. Or it could be Santa Claus, your brain says. Or … it could be all those zombies who ate the neighbors.” (From “Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance.”)