At the Ann Arbor Tea Party, I was delighted to see a very young-looking college age kid wearing an F.A. Hayek T-shirt, and I complimented him on it, saying that very few people his age had even heard of Hayek, much less knew enough about his philosophy to like him. At the time, I was wearing this Che Guevara T-shirt —
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— which is my way of saying I don’t like the man, or his image — especially the one that appears on countless leftie T-shirts.
But now I come to the hard part. Which T-shirt indicates a greater likelihood that the wearer is sincere in his belief?
Guevara or Hayek?
My bias may be showing, but I like to think that in general, young people wearing Hayek T-shirts are more sincere and thoughtful than those who wear the Che T-shirts. The latter tend to be followers, and to my way of thinking, few things are more detestable than being a follower. Now, while it is theoretically possible that some Hayek T-shirt wearers are mindless zombies who have been brainwashed at libertarian think tanks, I seriously doubt it, because almost every libertarian minded person I have known came to libertarianism through independent thinking and study and reading. And many of the Che T-shirt wearers wouldn’t know much about Che’s actual thinking. I doubt they know that he was a Maoist who made Fidel Castro nervous or that he cold-bloodedly carried out many executions single-handedly, including teenagers. Of course, the left condemns the peaceful Hayek and praises the murderous Che.
I think that what I like about the Hayek T-shirt is the reassurance it gives that the wearer in fact knows what he thinks and is not a zombie. As to where the line is drawn and what is a zombie, I do not know.
There’s a meme going around now in conservative circles that young people who voted for Barack Obama were unthinking zombies (automatons) who did not know what they were doing. It’s as reassuring a thought as it is a terrifying one, because it’s harder to blame people who did not know what they were doing, although it’s scary to think there are people like that running around and voting. But considering that more than half of the American voters also voted for Obama, I’m not sure that it’s really fair to single out only young people as zombies. Plenty of middle aged people (including many of my baby boomer friends) also voted for him. And some of them supported him for reasons I think are wrong, but which they think are right. I would not call my friends who voted for Obama zombies, because I don’t think they are.
As far as the young Obama voters, some of them may be zombies, but what about the ones who are not? There are young people who are simply on the left. I know this because I once was, and it took me time to realize the error of my ways. It was the revulsion towards Communism that I felt when I was a student in Berkeley that turned me towards libertarianism — and away from what struck me as a worse form of authoritarianism than what so many young lefties called “authoritarianism”:

By 1976 I had become so disillusioned with the left that I had decided I was a Libertarian. Learning about Cuba from people who’d been there did not endear me to the place. Gay bars which had been joyously cheering the victory of Fidel were closed down as places of bourgeois decadence not long after. Not much to cheer about. In general, Communists struck me as control freaks. People who, the more you got to know them, the more they wanted to tell you what to think. Communism in practice, I realized, was a very controlling deal. The ideology had an answer for everything. All you had to do was look it up, and follow Marxist principles. The Trots were more like fundamentalists in the sense that they could at least look up the text for themselves. But then they’d get into these fractious, tedious arguments, in the most hair-splitting detail. Insufferable. The Communist Party types were even worse, as they took direction from above. It was authoritarianism at its worst. No dissent at all. Party discipline was a prerequisite to any responsibility. If you wanted to join the Communist Party, you’d be given tasks involving utter drudgery (like standing around gathering signatures on some petition), and you’d be watched. Graded, like a child in school. Original thinking? Forget it. That’s only for those with years proven to be “politically reliable.”
So, I didn’t like real Marxists, and I didn’t like the idea of Marxism in government. However, I liked the hordes of fake Marxists (political poseurs) even less. None of them seemed free. I liked the idea of simply being left alone, and politically I was more of an anarchist than a Marxist, so Libertarianism (with its emphasis on leaving people alone) had an early and enduring appeal.

But before I realized that, was I a zombie? I don’t know. My thinking was immature and emotional, but no one had brainwashed me. I came to the conclusions that I reached pretty much on my own, although in my case the process was aggravated by my reflexive antagonism towards very real racism and bigotry that I saw growing up in the 60s.
There’s also that Churchill truism, which may be apocryphal,

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

So if that’s true, what are the implications as to zombiedom? The older the zombie, the less likely he is to come back to life?
Critical thinking is at least as much of a pain in the ass now as it was when I was young. Sometimes I feel like a zombie even now, except I don’t think anyone brainwashed me. More likely, I’m just suffering from brain overload brought on by a cacophony of hyperpartisanship. Obviously, this is aggravated by my own desire to be right and to help reverse the things I think are wrong, so to that extent I’m contributing to the cacophony. I don’t see much point in arguing against zombies, any more than there’s much point in preaching to those who already agree.
But pointless as it may be to have arguments with some people, I think it’s best to give them credit for at least having the ideas they claim to espouse, no matter how wrong or misguided they think they are. Otherwise, we cease to be human.
I guess that’s the whole idea of zombiedom.