Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waiting for the End of the World

(Going with the Elvis Costello song rather than R.E.M., because, really, who feels fine?)

It's the 20th of December in 2012 and that means one thing: We've grown weary of hearing about the impending "fiscal cliff" and are focused on the so-called Mayan-predicted end of the world (which, if that comes to pass tomorrow, then it won't really matter if the government fails to reach agreement on our nation's financial future, so there is at least that much). That doomsday thing has reached the point where even the local news was poking fun at it yesterday in their 6 a.m. weather forecast:

A few months ago this was cause for rumination, with the premiere of the show Revolution and its premise of a world plunged into chaos after the total loss of electricity. Its popularity may suggest we have a bit of an apocalypse fantasy, with an unconscious desire for The End. (For millennia religions and mythologies have stories of colossal termination that have filled people with a longing of sorts, generally based on the promise of paradise afterward, but for our purposes let's pretend now it's some mediocre adventure show on NBC.)

The premise of the show does raise the notion of the apocalyptic fantasy. The cessation of putting up with the bullsh*t of life cannot help but seem kind of worthwhile in the context of still putting up with it.

With the seeming slow decline (economies worsening, climates changing, wars looming), there's something of a let's-just-get-it-over-with attitude that can make a scenario like the one presented in this show's premise (if not execution) seem something we'd want (even without conscious awareness). If nothing else, seeing how it all really goes down (literally) offers a perverse satisfaction and, on some level, the bragging rights of having been around for it.

It was proposed that part of what makes the notion of this world without the modern conveniences is it would allow us to prove our mettle without everything being done for us. We've gone soft as a species and getting back to survival-of-the-fittest would deliver us to where we should be.

Really it would reveal how ill-equipped most of us would be for that. I like to think I wouldn't be as hideously bad off as some, but I know I'd be pretty screwed.

The collapse of society—not that what I saw in the pilot for Revolution portrayed what I imagine that would be like, but the expository scene wherein a character describes that those who stay in crowded cities will perish—does sound pretty accurate. So we'd be pretty f*cked here where we live.

The one upside to the end of electricity, in the short term (before diseases or mobs wiped out most of the urban and suburban population) would be rendering the jobs that most of us have utterly pointless, and at least initially there could be modest satisfaction in not having to deal with those dipsh*ts in the office. Obviously that novelty would wear off within a few days of not having running water and once the food started running out we'd reconsider our disdain for those dipsh*ts, but that "honeymoon" period while things aren't so bad would make not fighting traffic and not dealing with the unreasonable demands of unqualified superiors seem pretty awesome.

All of us who put up with that daily grind almost certainly have moments where, sitting in our cubicles, we fantasize about something—anything—that would bring an end to the bullsh*t. We lack the motivation to do anything, or at least we grasp that in this economy pretty much every other workplace would be just as bad, and we feel somewhat trapped. In those moments of that quasi-despair, the complete breakdown of society seems like just as good a release as anything.

Most of us (one certainly hopes) grasp that while that "solution" does achieve the immediate issue of the dipsh*ts at the office it fails to then shield us from those same dipsh*ts when we're in a Darwinian dystopia. Those idiots are annoying when they're merely asking asinine questions (that you're answered a dozen times already) but out in the lawless streets after the collapse, grouped into mobs, they'd be infinitely worse. Even if they merely perished, their decomposing bodies lying around would be a bigger problem than that typo-laden interoffice memo.

Such is the trouble with the apocalypse: the novelty wears off too quickly.

I suppose we'll need to muster the strength to put up with those dipsh*ts for a while; the alternative is unlikely to be as swell as those moments of fantasy might seem.


I read an article in Wired from a few months back where the apocalyptic predictions were debunked. Basically it looked at the factors from the past that seemed catastrophic at the time but didn't play out thusly. It didn't get into the psychology of why these keep coming up, but while reading I think I figured out the real appeal of Doomsday: When The End comes it will bring with it an end to hearing any further doomsday prognostication.

Of course, if there's an afterlife, one might have to spend eternity hearing about it from those who met their demise from it. That would have to get annoying eventually. I mean, if we are this boring here on Earth while we're alive, imagine how long it takes to run out of things to talk about when you have forever to fill.

If that's not a reason to hope for the continuation of the world I don't know what is.

1 comment:

So, what do you think?