Craving the Apocalypse

Fun fact: the word "apocalypse" comes from a Greek root meaning "revelation". As opposed to "Armageddon" or "Ragnarok" which are specifically battles, or "Doomsday" which is a day of judgment, an "apocalypse" is specifically when something -- the true nature of the universe, the destination point of history, God's plan -- is revealed. This is why an apocalypse is something that people can, in a perverse way, look forward to. There's an aspect of getting to say "I told you so!" -- think of apocalyptic Christian sects excited about Jesus coming back to end the world, gleeful at the prospect of forcing the unbelievers to see that the sect was right all along.

That's our consolation prize for the end of the world: force-feeding everyone the Red Pill, destroying the Matrix. The show is over, but you get to see behind the curtain, find out what it all meant, the wicked get what they deserved, stuff like that. It's /narratively satisfying/. What happens afterward might be a shitty future but at least it's a future, something markedly different from the present.

apocalypse fiction is appealing because it lets us imagine a fresh start after a radical simplification.

But, we might not even get the shitty consolation-prize future. Just an ongoing present that keeps deteriorating without ever quite collapsing. That might be the most depressing thought of all.

after the world annoyingly failed to end in 2012 (as the Mayan calendar did NOT predict, contrary to popular misconception) we were left with perhaps the most miserable scenario of all: what if there's no apocalypse at all?

meaning no climax, no reckoning, no "I told you so" -- simply a long, slow decline where each year is a little bit worse than the last. A few more species extinct, basic necessities a little more unaffordable, a few more freedoms taken away, slightly bigger and more deadly weather events, a formerly-major city evacuated here, another former democracy falling into authoritarianism over there, good jobs further out of reach, medicine scarcer, infrastructure in more disrepair. Another million refugees, another ten million refugees, with nowhere to go. Long lines for gas, your favorite foods disappearing from the grocery story one by one, the air harder to breathe, maybe electric blackouts become a daily occurrence and the trash stops getting picked up...

The climate apocalypse is very, very likely to end large parts of what we currently think of as civilization, but it will take many decades to get there. We are likely doomed to live through the early stages of it (in fact, we already have, that's what the 2010s was) and our children are doomed to live through the middle stages of it... but there might never be a big, dramatic moment that forces a clean separation from the past. Just a lot of muddling through the decline.

(not that Apocalypse)

Have you ever daydreamed about what you would do during or after the apocalypse (zombie or otherwise)? What was appealing about iit?

Were you planning to hide in a bunker with a shotgun and a lot of canned goods? i.e. is your fantasy to not have to be responsible to other people? The survival bunker never sounded very appealing to me, honestly. That's more of an extension of the mindset that got us into an apocalypse in the first place. (It also has an alarming amount of overlap with straight-up racists who are just waiting for society to collapse so they can start shooting minorities without consequences.)

My post-apocalypse fantasy was more about being useful, being able to support myself and others, helping to rebuild things, maybe preserve scientific knowledge and get old machines working again, maybe preserve medical knowledge and help sick people. Build a little community who can defend each other and help each other survive and raise food together and maybe grow into the nucleus of something better.

So here's a thought: if that's an appealing life, then what's stopping me from doing any of that stuff right now? Maybe start this weekend? Especially if the end of the world is just in slow-motion and we're already a decade into it, there's no time more appropriate to start my post-apocalypse.

(The answer of "why not start this weekend" is "building a community requries talking to people, and i'm an introvert")

(not that Apokalips either)

Are you just waiting for a big event to kick you in the butt and take away your comfortable life so that you're forced to do those things? Why wait for a big flashing sign that says "OK, the present is over, the future is starting now"

Last modified Jan. 16, 2020, 8:10 a.m..

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