It limits social and political progress but makes great drama. Whenever people need to cooperate, somebody mentions ‘the enemy within’. Those who like making decisions about others have always favoured the phrase. Today, David Cameron is talking about changing the law to make it tougher for people to go on strike. Despite what he tells them, 1 million Britons have noticed that the value of their wages has fallen catastrophically. The Prime Minister is famous for public school confidence. He is a man who can talk his way out of a paper bag but who is not so impressive after he leaves it. Van Helsing is not unlike Cameron, fine and kind, providing that you agree with him. He is free with compliments for women when they behave like he thinks they should. Much has been written about the heroine Mina in Dracula. But Mina is no feminist model and the book soon convinces a modern reader that Bram Stoker is, unsurprisingly, guilty of misogyny. Mina is self-reliant because she is needed to help the men conquer Dracula. Mina is not the female that too easily surrenders to the rampant libido of a part-time bat. She is a trouble free resource and the kind of resilient subservient human being that David Cameron insists upon. Annoyed by token resistance, he now wants to pass restrictive legislation against industrial action.
In Dracula, ‘the enemy within’ consists of those vulnerable to the vampire. Unlike Cameron, Stoker does have sympathy for the victims. But his fondness for the superior Briton explains the gushing praise he reserves for his heroes, the Circle of Light. Of course, David Cameron is not too worried about the individuals on strike this week. None of them will ever vote Conservative. But, when strikes happen, there is always the threat that there might be more. ‘The enemy within’ worries the powerful not only because it exists but also because it can spread. The establishment has a fear of widespread political contamination and insurrection.
Vampires and zombies are plague creatures who respect no one and take their appetites seriously. Dracula had a fortune but he was an aristocrat, so he is a poor financial model. Zombies and vampires do not save money; deferred gratification is not what they do. ‘The enemy within’ includes those who look at vampires and zombies and think why not. Vampires and zombies have no five days a week job and do not die after wishing their life away while nodding at bosses. It is too simple, though, to describe ‘the enemy within’ as those merely wanting escape. Human order has known nothing but hierarchy, and after the apocalypse there are always disputes about who should rule. In zombie movies, there are humans more terrifying than the zombies. Maybe there has been progress after all. See a zombie and we all want a rifle. David Cameron needs to stay in more and maybe watch a zombie movie and see what happens when ‘the enemy within’ really does become restless.
Howard Jackson has written three books. He has written three zombie stories for Zombie Bites, which will be published in October 2014. His omnibus of horror stories, Nightmares Ahead, will be published in October 2015.
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