The hypnotic spell of apocalypse

America’s endless apocalypse
Over the last decade, we’ve become obsessed with the end of the world — and it’s hurting us all

OK, I freely admit that I engage in apocalyptic talk from time to time (sometimes way more often) and as a student of history I should be more open to the unlikelihood of apocalypse and be thinking more along these lines:

When we free ourselves from the hypnotic spell of apocalypse, when we let go of our desire to see how things will turn out, we are free to answer a more important question. Not, are my beliefs correct? But, how do I live in accord with my values right now? Our insistence that a new world is coming later is a delusion; it is already here. We have met many who say that they will go start an organic farm when things come undone. We have met others who are already farming and say that they are doing it to prepare for the Great Unraveling. Why not choose to farm, as one example, because you value independence, self-sufficiency, and the environment and want to live in accordance with your values, rather than framing your life through the prism of the apocalypse, hoping to be proven right and others proven wrong? The answer as to how to live into our values is different for each of us — it may be about traveling the world as much as manning the ramparts. But the right public policy prescriptions and personal decisions will come only when we abandon our expectations that some future cataclysmic moment will eventually prove us right.

However (you knew there had to be a however, didn’t you ;-)), when I babble about apocalypse I am not talking the end of the world, the rising of the dead, celestial trumpets, etc. I am talking about a decade (or longer!) of privation as we as a society have to adapt to a dramatic loss of infrastructure, a government acting exactly contrary to the interests of the greatest number (whoa, that is already happening!), an economy that is so ruined that one takes several bags of ‘money’ to the store to return with one bag of groceries (one needn’t look far in our history to find several occurrences of such) and the total inability to make meaningful plans more than a season or so. That is the apocalypse I dread, the one that makes it impossible for me to maintain even my fantasies of building space stations and taking the first stepping stones to explore the universe.

Much like I tend to poo poo the hysterical babble about the nuclear destruction of the world (the average hurricane expends more energy than the entire world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, so while it would really suck to be at ground zero, it isn’t even necessary to entertain notions that evolution would be pushed to restart with cockroaches, there would be more than enough humans to continue down our path of destruction of an entire biosphere) I generally tend to poo poo any talk of exceptional broad-scale events having world-wide impact on society. That doesn’t mean, though, that, much like Greece today, the US can be abruptly thrown into sub-third world status through a highly probable series of events and because that would largely mean the end of the world as I choose to know it (much like I am sure that a lot of people considered Hitler’s invasion into France to be an apocalyptic change of the world, though in the fullness of time it was just a blip). Only by considering the potential for such society altering events, assigning probabilities and making preparatory decisions based this analysis can we possibly hope to minimize the personal effects of apocalypse. Yes, during the short period of societal breakdown the preparations of the survivalists will look quite prescient, but anarchy is unstable and it quickly devolves into some form of collective governing action (warlordism is most common in the immediate aftermath) and barricading yourself in your bomb shelter (I wonder, how trivial would it be to simply block them in there and cut off their air?) is probably not the ideal response.

Anyway, I liked the author and found the topic interesting so thought I would let my dear reader(s) know about it.

Author: Tfoui

He who spews forth data that could be construed as information...

2 thoughts on “The hypnotic spell of apocalypse”

  1. Anything can be predicted from nothing, and might even happen. If it does, and it’s important, The Predictor will almost surely be deified. Everyone will forget the other 99,999 predictions that didn’t even come close.

    On the other hand, some things are predictable. Accurate, sensible predictions are often useful, nay, even critically important, to the success of a given venture. They’re rarely apocalyptic in extent (indeed, I might say “never”).

    Some say that the really major events in human history (for example, the Industrial Revolution) have been unpredictable, Black Swan events. The last of the dinosaurs would probably agree.

    The data available suggest (to me, at least) that the lives of US citizens (for one) are headed for a nadir. While this may be apocalyptic in a personal sense, I doubt that it will be apocalyptic from the viewpoint of the human race.

    1. I have read quite a bit lately that ‘black swan’ events are basically events were predicted by a number of people but which went against the mainstreams view of the future (or fantasy of the future), thus the warnings were ignored, hence the ‘unpredictable’ surprise. The housing market crash was very easy to predict. Despite my predicting it and working to take advantage of it, my implementation was too slow and I got bit on the ass anyway. Same with the crash, it was easy to predict it was going to happen (it was, in fact, inevitable), but the actual timing was tricky and there was a crap load of money to be made in the mean while (I got dumb lucky and _didn’t_ lose $10K on a bet that MS would rise up from one of the market’s periodic crashes: the brokerage insisted on actual signed documents to do future trading and in the time it took to get the documents squared away, guess what? MS stock hadn’t rebounded. Last I checked it was still trading in that same range more than a decade later). I guess it is like the people who live on a volcano. They know bad things are in store for the future, but the ground sure grows great crops in the meanwhile!

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