Prophets of doom

Modernity is obsessed with its own destruction. It loves to create solutions to problems that don’t exist.  Everyone over 25 remembers the hype the Y2K bug unleashed.  For most of the 1990s, popular culture was obsessed with it.  The idea that a simple computer bug that had the potential to destroy the world as we know it was far too tantalizing.  From this, multitudes of apocalyptic visions sprang forth. At the stroke of midnight it would cause widespread general mayhem.  It could wipe out bank accounts and trigger massive looting.  Defense systems could malfunction and cause a nuclear holocaust.  A world wide effort went under way to stop the unthinkable.  Hundreds of billions of dollars went into preventing it.

Sane voices downplaying the mass panic were ignored.  Conspiracy theorists took it as their own and ran wild with doomsday scenarios.  Local news broadcasts exploited the hysteria.  They would run a broadcast on it every couple of weeks.  Large corporations made public proclamations that they were 100% compliant in an effort to assuage their customers’ fears.  Several companies sprang up over night and offered floppy disks and CDs to check for affected systems.  They spread among the general populace like a cure for the plague.

The year 2000 came and went. No major crisis happened.  Every day life remained unaffected.  Today, it is nothing more than a joke people can reminisce about.  It’s the kind of thing someone brings up when conversation goes stale at bad parties.  A collective cringe of embarrassment arises whenever the three letter acronym is mentioned.  At best a it will be greeted nervous chuckle and shrugged off.

It was a blessing this hysteria had a time limit.  The new millennium offered a crucible for the crisis.  Either it ended at the stroke of midnight or we were all safe from it forever.  Most conjured catastrophes do not offer this luxury.

Modernity is replete with crises that offer no end in sight.  Modern man still gobbles them up just the same.  People want to believe that the world can end with a flip of a bit or a push of a button.  The root cause of the popularity of these apocalyptic visions is still deep within the modern psyche.  It is a desire for escape through destruction.

Every ideology has its own version of Armageddon.  Each are surprisingly creative and elaborate.  The man who values the environment above all else preaches about global warming.  It will kill us all in just a few short years unless we stop the pollution now.  Economic doomsayers will yell about the impending collapse of global trade until they are blue in the face.  Those concerned about the degeneration of our immortal souls will warn of the ascendence of Satan on judgement day.  It will bring damnation and eternal hellfire to all sinners.

It’s an effective tactic for getting a message out.  It plays into the base fears that everyone holds dear.  Each scenario promises utopia.  The only problem is that people are evil. If only we could get our act together, eternal paradise would be ours.

Despite all of our sins, we have eluded doomsday so far.  The four horsemen seem to be taking it easy. Nuclear catastrophes, massive oil spills, and global wars threaten the world every day. Life still goes on. No matter how hard he strains his bindings, the fenris wolf remains tightly bound.

Yet, there is truth behind these wild fantasies.  Every beginning has an end.  Brutus was right when he killed Caesar.  Rome was destroyed when it became an empire.  He could see that Caesar was setting the republic on a dangerous path from the very moment he crossed the Rubicon.  His only misstep was the length of his foresight.  Instead of immediate collapse, it took another 400 years before the end of his nation would come to pass.

As a consequence, his actions were unnecessarily drastic and, ultimately, all in vain. Brutus could not prevent the fall of Rome with the death of one man.  He soon met the same fate of he dealt to Caesar.  After being hounded by those who would avenge their slain emperor, he paid for his foolishness with a dishonorable suicide.  A just cause with a noble intent can lead to death as surely as the most vile deeds.

No one act can reverse the sweeping causes behind the course of history.  Societies rise through many actions of prudence and justice.  Societies fall through a multitude of immoral and shortsighted deeds.  Trends, fads, and crazes all fade with time.  Reality eventually comes for them all.  The most lasting change a man can enact is to be wise and just with each action he takes.  The best weapon against the insanity of the modern world is a life lived well.

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7 responses to “Prophets of doom

  1. “Modernity is replete with crises that offer no end in sight. Modern man still gobbles them up just the same. People want to believe that the world can end with a flip of a bit or a push of a button. The root cause of the popularity of these apocalyptic visions is still deep within the modern psyche. It is a desire for escape through destruction.”

    I agree so much with this statement. Escape is key…man can no longer think because to think is too deep for him.

    People take things too literally oftentimes. Case and point: survivalists. Whilst I believe it is always wise to try to expect the unexpected. Its also impossible to know how it will play out. More importantly, truly the way one will REACT. Too often people fool themselves into thinking its as simple as preparing. Its so much more than that. Genetics play an important role here too. How strong is your fight? How strong is your resolve to overcome and create from destructive things? If you do not truly have a sense of who you are and what you are capable of all these objects are superfluous and irrelevant to the cause. Too many people follow, when really it is a realm beyond some of our best “control”. Nice article! As always, I can tell you are introspective at the very least(this is a compliment :) )

    M

    • I couldn’t agree more about survivalists. If observing nature has taught me anything, it is that adaptation is key. What’s the point in stockpiling barrels of grain if the first person with a big stick can just take it?

      • Survivalism is another cult. Like many others. Someone trying to be literal when it virtually is not possible. You see, organic ideas in their purest forms thrive solely within the person(after all they must be a part of you). When you begin to make ideas tangible it can lead to a plethora of issues, not to mention losing the entire purpose or principal. Thus I am against most things organized, they just don’t make logical sense. Following whatever herd, no matter how “right” it may be just isn’t for me. I have too many questions, therefore the answers must be found by my own doing…not living through someone else’s notion of what is logical.

      • I think most people find a sense of comfort in groupthink. That’s why it is so popular. It’s easy to validate your worldview by just following others. You just do the same thing everyone else is and you’re instantly accepted.

        But, as with most everything in life, the easy path is rarely worth following.

  2. Modernity itself is a crisis with no end in sight. We are desperate for some form of “endgame” event whether it is the Christians with the coming of their prophet, the Jews building their Third Temple or an apocalyptic nuclear war between the West and Russia in the near future. These periodic crises such as Y2K or more recently the 2012 Mayan prophecy are all just illusions created as a result of the mental dormancy fostered by modernity. I think they are just a way for people to cope with the boredom and monotony of everyday life that comes from modernity. It is a longing to escape for some also. What’s more, capitalists will capitalize on these fears by offering their own solutions to the problem. This is seen most illustratively by the survivalist mentality with stockpiling and buying “true organic” food. They feel a form of reassurance and comfort thinking that by buying these products they have found a solution to the problem. Fear and consumerism are coupled to ultimately give the capitalist the profit. This sense of perpetual fear is an aspect that is thoroughly ingrained in modern thought. Many will clamor and obsess over such fictional crises but will largely ignore the most obvious attacks on their lives in the forms of constant foreign wars by their political leaders, suppressing free speech, preservatives and artificial chemicals and flavorings in their food and so many others.
    Is it any wonder that ancient societies never had any prophetic fears? For them dishonour and political coup were the only fears, not illogical fantasies.

  3. Pingback: Socratic subversion | NOVUS SÆCULUM OBSCURUM

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