03 January 2011
2011: Beginning of the End?
Forget about 2012 and those stupid Mayans; they were heathens, anyway. Certain bible-believing Christians will tell you that everything starts to go down this May 21, when the Rapture will take place. So preaches Harold Camping, for whom May 21 was originally an alternate date if a 1994 prediction fell through. I learned today that people are actually acting on Camping's scholarship and making preparations accordingly. The news doesn't surprise me. The whole 2012 mania makes clear that many people actually want the world, or at least the civilization whose complexities oppress them so, to end as soon as possible. Why shouldn't some people want it all to end sooner, especially when the prediction comes, unlike the Mayan buncombe, with a promise of escape via heavenly tractor beam? The appeal of apocalyptic fantasy in hard times and the hope for heavenly intervention is grounded in the more mundane conviction that, as the existentialists put it, hell is other people. The 20th century saw utopianism discredited by association with totalitarianism; apocalypse has emerged in its place. Utopia encompassed the redemption of everyone; how it came to be identified with Marxist totalitarianism when Marx himself repudiated utopianism is a historical mystery. Apocalypse entrusts divine powers with carrying out a purge of humanity that Stalin or Mao would envy. Apocalypse presumes that no one will be saved unless many if not most of the others are eliminated, or if most if not all institutional structures are destroyed. It is perversely comforting to its adherents because it requires less work on their part, since it imposes fewer responsibilities. You only have to look out for yourself by getting right with God or stocking up on gold, guns, canned food, etc. Apocalypse isn't the same as dystopia; it's not about injustice, nor is it a call to arms or mere vigilance. It's not the opposite of utopia but a kind of utopia in its own right. Even more than the scenarios it paints, that's the scary thing about it.