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.