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Zombie movies have a terrifying topicality. For example, a town in which the life of its inhabitants passes in routine tranquillity suddenly, and as a consequence of an extraordinary event, sees how its inhabitants become dead people who walk around idiotically looking for someone to turn into a zombie like them.

Why is the zombie metaphor disturbing? Because currently, a minor incident is enough for everything that remained hidden under the rug to come to light, transforming rational, secular and critical citizens into sympathisers of the extreme right. The trigger for this transformation today is the anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment that is growing in Europe, particularly Ireland. But this feeling is not new; it has evolved in the dark.

Where was this sentiment hidden before turning into public anti-refugee protests? Why are they growing in number and support? Why are they met with so little public disapproval?

The answer that one finds is always the same: refugees and migrants are blamed for a series of social ills that affect the general population. The housing crisis, not enough beds available in hospitals, the long waiting list for operations, the absence of places in nursing homes and a long etcetera in which practically everything fits.

The problem is that the witch hunters are looking in the wrong direction. These deficiencies are not new. They have been generated by previous bad political-administrative decisions, by the excessive ambition of individuals and businesses, not by migrants or refugees. Moreover, these crises existed before migrants and refugees arrived in the country.

But then, why are migrants and refugees the scapegoats for everything that annoys and troubles the general population? Why do we place our frustration solely on the shoulders of migrants and refugees?

On one occasion, I was in a store buying groceries. Two women were chatting with the assistant while three men were arguing on the sidewalk outside the store. I knew one of them because he also had a small shop in a nearby town. When the volume of the conversation outside rose in tone, the women looked at each other. Finally, one of them commented: “you can’t walk in the street anymore with all these foreigners always making trouble”, immediately the other nodded, then the assistant, and after a few minutes, everyone was adding negative comments against migrants and refugees, who according to these people were causing all sort of ills. But none spoke of the young white nationals around town -probably known to some of them- who misbehave, take drugs and drink on the corners, burn garbage bins or steal cars to burn them in vacant lots. What is the name of that ideology that defends the superiority of white nationals over others and justifies social segregation? I think Wikipedia calls it racism, anyway.

Perhaps what has happened with people is simpler: the citizens of this country have lost their self-restraint because the media and politicians have shown a lack of critical and informed disapproval of what is behind the anti-migrant sentiment. To this has been added a symptomatic fear of conflict and of losing the favouritism of voters. The extreme right has only had to reap what others have planted by adding misinformation and manipulation. 

Both factors have produced the perfect climate for the appearance of polarisation: migrants and refugees vs us, the nationals. This polarisation has generated that today ordinary people who have become “Zombies” feel that they have been “given permission” to say publicly and shamelessly what they have thought long before and act accordingly: go hunting for others, protest against the weak. It is not the powerful that are blamed for the crises. The rest we know: these judgments are not finding criticism and rejection but rather silent acquiescence, which gives a lot to think about: perhaps there are many more latent Zombies than one dares to imagine at first glance.

Photo Sebastian silva







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