Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Are the Vampires by Neil Benson

Vampires are us, not other. When we look into the mirror, they are the twisted reflections of that which is evil within us. This is not to say that all, or even most, people are essentially evil. Rather, the vampire is a metaphor for some of our evil wishes. As much as the myth of the vampire is about sex, it is also about greed. The vampire hungers for the blood of the living and takes it by force, not caring whether the victim lives or dies. Of course, there is the exception. That is when the vampire for personal reasons decides to turn the victim into one of the "undead." Evil breeding evil.

Various legends and myths make Lilith, Adam's first wife, the mother of all vampires or all succubi. According to the myth, Lilith refused to subjugate herself to Adam and demanded to be his equal. She might have been the first feminist. For her defiance, she paid an awful price. The Angels killed her children, and she in turn swore vengeance on the descendent of Adam. There are 4000-year-old stone carvings of Lilith. The presence of the carving does not necessarily make her real. However, for people to have taken the trouble to make carvings of her meant she was of more than minor significance. There are legends of vampires in many other cultures separated from the civilizations that arose in Mesopotamia and its neighboring areas.

I believe one way to look at the vampire is to see the creature as humanity disowning its own evil intent. We invent the creature and give it lust and other qualities we deny exist in ourselves. After millenniums passed, the vampire arrived in literature. First in John Polypore's The Vampyre, then in Carmilla" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and finally in Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is worth noting that Lord Ruthven in Vampire and Carmilla both appear as "normal" human beings. However, Dracula is described as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker notes his "extraordinary" pallor.

I believe Dracula was depicted to make him an evil looking creature, not one of us. A hundred years pass, and vampires are once again indistinguishable from us. In many novels, they are creatures of great beauty and allure. In recent novels, they have been tamed, and were it not for their thirst for blood and immortality, they could probably join the Chamber of Commerce. But in 2007, continuing into 2008 and 2009, a worldwide financial catastrophe brings forth a different vampire. These vampires do not take in blood, nor are they immortal and have inhuman strength. Rather, these vampires sucked the financial blood of the nation that a second Great Depression was only narrowly averted. These vampires are bankers, brokers, heads of investment firms, mortgage agents, and a host of others who fed on society's greed for bigger, better houses.

Vampires will always be among us. For they are "us" in our worst aspects. Whether in the form of the myth or the reality of people so greedy they would destroy an economy, they are us.

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