An uncontrollable pressure relief valve for the questionably sane.

Posts Tagged ‘end times

How Nigh is the End?

with one comment

Humans are the only creatures with enough conscious awareness to comprehend our own demise while simultaneously worrying about it.  Doomsday prophecies have been around (most likely) since the first humans realized individual life was temporary.

Everything comes to an end.  Everything.  Earth will come to an end.  In a trillion years or so, our sun will eventually become a shining diamond in the galaxy no longer producing solar fusion, then it will cool to the ambient temperature of the rest of space, a few degrees above absolute zero, enabling it to relax and hang out with all the other old space chunks.  A trillion years is a long grind, the sun deserves a break.

But let’s not worry too much about the distant future, humanity in its current form will be long gone so there’s no sense in getting upset.  We spend much more of our limited time indulging ourselves in apocalyptic scenarios we feel are imminent in our lifetimes.  Is there real danger lurking around the bend or are we merely succumbing to predestined biological psychosis?  Is our drive to survive culpable for the multitude of Armageddon scenarios that litter contemporary media?  I’m not sure if it’s real or imaginary (there’s no way to tell), but I feel the quaking in my bones, too. We have a lot to worry about lately.

Before I get into the end-of-the-world concerns of the modern day, let’s look at a few bygone doomsday prophecies that came and went,  if only to demonstrate our perpetual fascination with the End of Days.   These fears have been around forever, but we’ve had the pleasure of watching them cycle continually over the past few decades thanks to modern media. What a bitch of a day-after it must have been for the convinced.

The list gets pretty long, but you might remember some or all of these:

  • Pat Robertson 1982, Biblical Armageddon (He ran for president not long after, what an optimist!)
  • Heaven’s Gate, 1997, Hale-Bop Comet apocalypse (They castrated themselves and committed suicide. Great follow-through!)
  • Nostradamus, 1999 (No one really knows what he was talking about)
  • Y2K (awesome  parties)
  • Giant Dinosaur-killer-style Meteor, constant updates (don’t go into Astronomy or watch the Science Channel)
  • God’s Church Ministry, May 21, 2011.  American Christian Radio Host Harold Camping  (now revised to October 21, keep your fingers crossed!).

I can’t include 2012 because we’re not there yet.  I don’t think 2012 will be the end of humanity, but I have an intuitive understanding of why popular culture has embraced this date as possible “end times.”  I’ve read the books and watched the documentaries.  Pick up Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012 The Return of Quetzlcoatl if you’re looking for a smart read that handles the idea on a broad spectrum.  Or check it out if you’re into hallucinogens, either way it’s fun.  I can’t predict whether or not the world will end soon, I’m just some guy, but it’s obvious the human race is feeling something on the unconscious level that scares us–we can’t identify it exactly but we can feel it.

Whatever your personal fear, the fuel for the current apocalypse craze comes from two intertwined sources:  Over-Population and Peak Oil.  We’ll come up with new ones when these play out:

Over-population is self-explanatory if you’re half-educated.  Ever own a goldfish?  How big was your fish bowl, a gallon or two maybe?  How many fish did you have in there, one, two, three?  Maybe a couple big ones and a little school of tiny ones, maybe an algae-eater even?  Did you ever get fish-crazy and go to the pet store and buy a bunch of fish and try to cram them in the little fish bowl?  How many did you get in there?  Another dozen, maybe 50?  Everything fell apart, right, and you had to flush a bunch of rotting, reeking, tiny fish down the toilet in the hall bathroom no matter how many flakes you fed them?  This is a terrible ecological analogy, but you get the idea.  Finite space cannot support infinite exponential growth.  There are nearly 7 billion humans on the planet now, and the population has more than doubled since 1960.  The fish bowl is getting really crowded and a lot of us are nervously wondering when the big flush is coming.

Peak Oil isn’t a new idea, it’s been around since the fifties, but it’s getting a lot of press lately.  I’m going to do my best to summarize it succinctly, do your own research if you’ve never heard of it (watch The Collapse, an interview with Michael C. Ruppert if you’re in a particularly pessimistic mood and want a fear-inducing  intro course).  “Peak Oil” refers to the point in time when global petroleum extraction hits its all-time high, never to be reached again.  Reputable scholars think we’ve hit the peak already, but there’s significant debate about whether we’ve begun our decline in production.  Either way it makes intuitive sense to the oil-consuming public–we’re beginning to wonder what will happen as our demand for petroleum continues to increase while the supply dwindles.  The intuitive fear is greater than the fear of high prices at the pump; oil has been the keystone resource for global industry for more than a century.  Consider the middle-class population boom in India and China, all of them wanting shiny new internal-combustible powered automobiles, and you’ll start to feel the pinpricks of fear.  It’s a little like having only one glass of water for ten people.  Things are going to change.

And change, though constant, is scary.  None of us can predict exactly what will happen, Nostradamus could supposedly see the future and he missed the mark more than a few times.  People are starting to adapt now: the local food movement, an increase in cyclists, electric cars, wind and solar energy harvesting, home vegetable gardens, modern homesteading/getting off-grid, many of these trends are a direct result of the coming adjustment to the status quo.

But not everyone thinks ahead and plans accordingly, it’s not easy to prepare for the unknown.  Hence the doomsday crowd.  It’s much easier to be afraid than to think, even if thinking gives you horrifying information.   And although educated scholars are out there doing their best to disseminate mountains of information, the average guy on the street can feel what’s going on easier than he can rationalize it.  Our fear is so rampant we see phrases like “if you’re not paranoid, you’re not paying attention,” surfacing over and over again, each time it sounds a little more like good advice.   Always more fear mongering.  If you’re afraid you’re easily ruled.

Which is where our insatiable hunger for zombie-culture comes in.  World War Z, The Walking Dead, 28-Days Later, are all entertainment vehicles preying on our subconscious fear of civilized society drastically changing or coming to an end.  Hundreds of  zombie films were made in 2010, our love for the Undead has increased sharply in the past few years; the genre is ubiquitous now. Also,  zombie-entertainment conveniently combines our apocalyptic fears with other subconscious desires, like sadism.  Sadist or not, anyone who’s endured gridlock on an interstate has fantasized about ruthlessly beating a fellow idiot commuter (while smiling).  This subdued rage can be taken out on the Undead guilt-free.  They look  human, but they’re not, so go ahead and take a bat to their skull, it’s for the greater good.  Zombie films are dress rehearsal for end-of-the-world scenarios, and we can’t get enough.

With a little luck the change won’t be so bad.  I’ve dabbled in Anarchism, and even a little Nihilism on my more morose days, but I have an optimistic outlook for our inevitably “different” future.  Things will change, humans will adapt, life will go on.  People will die, people will live, and whatever the circumstances we’ll carve out a new niche for ourselves (probably a much smaller niche).  A lot of us will have to learn a new set of skills, and the pencil-pushers will have to rely heavily on those with the skills necessary for survival.   So don’t waste any more precious energy worrying about what the doomsdayers say, they’re only scared, like the rest of us.  Who knows?  The Big Change might come tomorrow, or it might not come for generations, but we all feel something coming, which means something probably is.  Be prepared.

In case of rapture, I’ll be in the shed with a bottle of good bourbon. Don’t bother me unless the music gets too loud, in which case you’re welcome to join me or fuck off.




Written by billlobe

August 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm