Every Alternet article Salon posts on it’s site seems to make my head hurt. Sometimes the headline conveys a premise so incredibly fucking stupid that the article must be read. By sometimes, I mean almost all the time. I really shouldn’t read this shit, but I’m beginning to think perhaps there is some masochism in me that compels me to do damage to my brain.
I try to be fair. I read both conservative and liberal political blogs, try to keep an open mind and not to take other people’s political views personally. I try really hard, but sometimes I fail. I fail miserably. There are a lot of voices on the internet that I disagree with, but I still respect them. I disagree with a lot of the political articles on Salon, but I still respect the website and its writers for the most part. But Salon keeps cross-posting Alternet articles. Articles that make me want to slam my head into my keyboard because they are consistently some of the most vapid, clueless, stupid reading one can find. If you want shittier analysis and worse writing on the internet than Alternet, well the only place that offers that is right here baby.
This may seem like a silly article to get all uppity about, but it’s the latest car in a long train of stupid articles from Alternet. The other articles are defiantly more worthy to be torn apart, but I picked this one because…well…because fuck it, that’s why.
The article asks the question, why is America so obsessed with the Apocalypse? It then lists the latest Ice Age film, Melancholia, and Roland Emmerich’s last shit fest 2o12 as examples of America being obsessed with apocalyptic themes. The article doesn’t make mention of Fallout, Mad Max or the Jean Claude Van Damme Oscar worthy classic Cyborg. Nor does it mention George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which is interesting because they shove zombies into everything now days, including the evening news. With the Walking Dead being a cultural hit, you might say that America isn’t obsessed with the Apocalypse, but the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
So, the question begs to be asked, why is America obsessed with the Apocalypse?
The answer is simple. We aren’t.
The Alternet piece doesn’t mention the most culturally significant apocalyptic work in human history, the Book of Revelations. That’s because the book of Revelations is really old, and doesn’t fit the central narrative that is popular these days, that everything is shit and is only going to get shittier.
When a giant, terrifying fissure erupts in the earth, separating a family of giraffes as they look on in comical horror, we are supposed to laugh. And yet, in an astronomically hot summer setting off some of the most extreme weather patterns on earth since we began recording such things, earth-change jokes seem like a type of auto-schadenfreude — or gallows humor at least, as we plow into an uncharted future that ain’t lookin’ too rosy.
As usual, the comments section is where the stupidity really doubles down as it always does on the internet.
American society has become so cynical and frankly mean that it’s not particularly surprising to see people indulging their pet End of the World stroke-fests. Everybody thinks “Man, if we could just start over from scratch without all these other bothersome jerks, things would be so much better/more to my liking.” People are basically solipsistic, selfish morons and this kind of thing is just a symptom.
The above is a comment by Ken727.
I find it ironic that the author wonders why we have an obsession with the Apocalypse, while stating a number of times in the piece that the future looks grim.
Everyone knows, on some level, that we are headed downhill as a species. We can’t manage our resources, cooperate to solve problems, or resolve our differences peacefully. Many are coming to realize that our economic and monetary systems are inequitable and unsustainable. These days it seems that profit is all that matters; if it won’t make money it won’t get done, no matter how beneficial or necessary.
Blame the Democrats or the Republicans, the 1% or the 99%, yourself or others. Take your pick, there’s enough to go around. Everyone knows that we are sick; culturally, intellectually and spiritually. No one knows just how or when it will end. But most of us suspect it’s not too far off unless we make some real changes.
Another comment by kilfarsnar.
So the article asks a question it has no intention of answering, and the comments section discusses how much the world sucks and how it’s going to suck even harder in the future. Well, allow me to put everyone’s fears of a shitty ass future to rest.
In the 1600’s slavery became an institution in the American colonies. If you want a more concrete date, well let’s just pull 1620 out of the hat. Over two hundred years later, slavery was abolished in America in the 1860’s at the end of the Civil War. A hundred years later in the 1960’s, African Americans won their civil rights as equal citizens in the United States. Roughly fifty years later the first African American President of the United States of America was elected. Let’s look at these rough numbers.
200 years -> 100 years -> 50 years
We can expect the next giant leap in minority civil rights in about 25 years, then the next 12 years after that. For all the doom and gloom about climate change. Keep in mind our race survived a far more violent global weather assault at the end of the Ice Age when we were still jerking off in caves as opposed to on the internet.
Compared to what we went through at the end of the Ice Age, our global climate looks remarkably stable. We need clean, renewable energy but for a whole host of reasons on top of environmental ones. There are significant problems that the world faces right now, but there will always be significant problems. Change takes time. Luckily for us, as we advance as a species the time it takes is getting shorter and shorter. We are becoming more adaptive, fluid and aware. Not less.
Is there cynicism and meanness in American society today? Sure. But I don’t see anyone throwing live babies into a furnace for sacrifice anywhere. Wars today are still costly and stupid. But the cost in human life has dramatically decreased since the 20th Century. It is true that one human life is far too much of a cost for our governments’ pathological need to war with each other. But the possibility of non-lethal war may be on the horizon if we can find leaders with the balls to champion such a thing.
But as every geologist knows, change takes time. If we can’t destroy the old idol of Moloch with a single blow, perhaps we can chip away at it piece by piece, until the structure fails and it collapses.
The reason apocalyptic themes have been common since the days of ancient Sumer, is because we faced one early in our development of civilization. We were nearly wiped out by the catastrophic shifts the Earth underwent at the end of the Ice Age. Sudden spikes and drops in global temperature, mass flooding, volcanic activity, earthquakes and mass extinctions of possible food sources nearly brought us down for good.
It was a traumatic experience for our species. A trauma that we are still working through to this day. Deep in our consciousness is a rational fear that everything we built and accomplished as a species can come to a sudden and violent end.
The two of the oldest stories we have are the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Book of Genesis, both feature an apocalypse via a great flood. Both were memories of a time when nature was crueler to us, seemingly punishing us for our audacity to exist. Nature turned Egypt from a lush, green paradise into a scorching desert, but then we built ancient Egypt and some of our greatest monuments. We survived, we adapted, we made things better for ourselves.
The article asked if America is becoming obsessed with the end of the world. The answer is simple and right there for all to see. That answer is no. The end of the world is a human theme and has been since the origins of civilization. If we become more focused on apocalyptic themes it’s not because things are getting worse, but because they are getting better.
The article suggests that some sort of cynical “auto-schadenfreud” is to blame. That we are laughing at the possibility of our own demise out some sado-masochistic glee. Laughter and humor was developed in the human body as a way to relieve stress. The reason we laugh at the end of the world isn’t out of auto-schadenfreud but out of fear. Fear that all the good things we have created, and all the good things that might exist on the horizon might come to an end.
Every species of life on this planet fights for its own survival. We are both cursed and blessed with self awareness. Our need for survival is just as great and a powerful force as that of the lion or the gazelle it is chasing. Exploring the fears and concepts of our possible endings is both a rational and worthwhile topic in culture.
So when Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation of the story of Noah hits theaters next year, or the year after. Enjoy the show, enjoy the spectacle and all of the cathartic power that stories like that of Noah can have in releasing our deepest hurts and anxieties. It’s perfectly normal, and it’s perfectly healthy for our society.