Friday, June 21, 2013

Zombies! Cotard Syndrome vs. the Quislings

Happy Friday everyone!  Are you ready for the weekend?  I am, and to kick it off, its date night at the cinema tonight!  We're going to be seeing This is the End, which I'm really looking forward to, but today is also the opening day of the new Brad Pitt move, World War Z!  Riding the coattails of the zombie craze, there's a lot of hype about this particular movie, based off the Max Brooks book of the same name.  I recently read this book for myself and wanted to do a particularly interesting historical and scientific zombie-tie in with the movie's release!

Recently, a totally awesome Fortean website, Who Forted?, did a feature article on a quite disturbing medical condition known as Cotard's Syndrome.  Prior to that, I believe it was Cracked.com who also did a feature on this disorder.  But what IS Cotard's Syndrome?  Well...this IS a post about zombies!

Cotard Syndrome is also known as "walking corpse syndrome."  Named after Parisian neurologist Jules Cotard, this mental disorder was first described about 1880.  There are varying degrees of this disorder, and the disorder, much like Renfield's Syndrom that we talked about earlier this month, goes through three distinct stages, each a little more intense than the last.

While there is quite a lot of literature on this subject, in short, people who suffer from Cotard's Syndrome believe they don't exist, or that they are dead corpses.  The delusions can get so bad that these people neglect to eat, practice good hygiene, or take the most basic precautions with their health and well-being, simply because they believe they are already dead and it doesn't matter.  The syndrome is also marked with SEVERE depression in addition to these delusions and hallucinations.  There is hope, though...proper medication and therapy can give these walking dead a new chance at a normal life.  Historically, however, many sufferers of Cotard Syndrome did pass away from neglect and starvation.

This disorder is pretty disturbing and luckily only affects a small percentage of the population, but that doesn't make it any less fascinating!  My interest was obviously piqued so I read up on the disorder, and therefore was very pleasantly surprised to see quite a comparison discussed in World War Z!

World War Z describes the great zombie war, in which the world is literally at war with millions of zombies intent on destroying mankind.  There are many points during the war where morale among the living took a serious toll.  These extreme circumstances gave birth to an extreme mental disorder where the adage of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" evolved into a literal Cotard Syndrome meets Stockholm Syndrome.  Basically, living persons believed they were zombies and embodied that role, going so far as to shuffling around moaning and eating human flesh.  The only way to tell the difference between one of these "quislings" as they were named, was the fact that the truly still living would blink, while the clinically dead did not.  Oh, and the fact that because of working bodily functions and sweat glands, the quislings actually smelled WORSE than the decaying bodies of the dead.

The Original Quisling

There's a brief mention of why these people were called quislings, but it didn't really sink in until I did some additional "googling" for the term.  The term Quisling was actually coined by a British newspaper in 1940, during the midst of World War 2.  Vidkun Quisling of Norway actually ASSISTED the Nazis in conquering his own country, on the condition that he would be reinstated as a ruler under this new regime.  Quisling quickly became a word that meant ANY person who collaborated with the Axis powers in Allied controlled areas...which naturally evolved into a term meaning a general traitor.  With that background, its easy to see how these fake zombies got their name!



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