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Growing up in the Cold War, I always had this impression that the world was just on the brink of disappearing. I was a little obsessed with atomic warfare, to be honest. I read everything I could understand on the subject. Kids' primers on Einstein and Bohr. The road from the Michelson–Morley experiment to the pile of graphite in the squash court.

I read Hiroshima. Read all the bios. Watched The Day After, and read When the Wind Blows. When Sting's "Do the Russians Love their Children, Too?" came out, it actually meant something visceral to me.

And I know I was far from alone. The year 2000 was warming up. Just over a decade away. And just like the year 1000, there was full expectation that the End Times (note caps) were near. After all, we had the power to destroy 1/3 of the world instantly, to make water wormwood and blood. "The Lake of Fire" was such a great image for the Beast that came up out of the Abyss, which could have been anything from NATO to the EU to Hobbs' Leviathan.

But seriously...

What a nasty little book Revelations is. As far as I can tell, it is just as likely a ergot-induced travesty as well as a prophecy, and everything is so vague, anything can be interpreted out of it. Thank you, Umberto Eco, for showing how a small monestery facing changes in the church could play out the entire Revelation in the minds of its inhabitants. The Revelation is a kind of tarot deck or tea leaf to any bit of garbage you want to foist on the world.

And that's the thing. The End Times has been dogging my entire life, filling up the news with suddenly-scared-conservative idiots starting to mistake the fact that "faith is incontrovertable" with "faith is fact". That somehow, if we only BELIEVED hard enough, we would change the nature of reality.

And then they were here. There was the Y2K bug, the self-castrating UFO cult, the sun-cult, false-eyelash and touch-your-TV-screen Televangelist, every cynical right-wing-christain-nut-with-a-global-TV-empire milking the Millennium for all its worth.

And it just kept going. All the way through 9/11, the third-time's-a-charm-for-adding-up-the-days-billboard-creep, the Mayan Apocalypse, and, now, finally, the end of the Papal prophecies: Peter the Roman is not tending his flock in the ruins of Rome.

The game is over and the world didn't end. GET OVER IT.

(Actually, us computer geeks know about the 32-bit epoch overflow, but that's not until 2038)

So I want to make a deal with all the Millinarians out there. You know who you are. You're the survivalists, the mahdi-chasers, the zombie holocausters, the rose-for-Emily brides of christ, the red-heifer breeders, the temple-mount sappers.... Well, no.

There's more to it than that. It's everyone who thinks, somewhere in the back of the brain, that somehow, we're all going to get a second chance. That there will be magic that will replace this God-awful world with a bright and shiny one so we don't need to take care of this one. And in that, I include myself.

Here's the deal. We put up with your just-in-case hysteria in the guise of religious fervour for thirty years.

We know what we need to do. So here's my proposal:

Let's get to work.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 14th, 2013 07:50 am (UTC)
Let's get to work

Yes, and because work is hard, and because to move forward you must be willing to make mistakes (who learned anything, or got anywhere, without a single misstep), let's not immediately condemn folks if they aren't supermen or women.

--I don't know how to balance that with "but we also need to give up on a course of action if it's obviously not working," but hey, that's part of what we have to figure out.

This is one reason why I love Miyazaki Hayao's message so much: his films are *full* of Work Hard and Never Give Up. And of compassion and love being more strong than--well, anything else, really. And more important than anything else, even ultimate survival.
Mar. 14th, 2013 07:54 am (UTC)
I think nature, and evolution, give us an excellent model: mistakes are the way you move forward. It's the mistake that isn't a mistake that changes everything. By mistake.

My favourite Buddhist saying is still "Before enlightenment, cutting wood and drawing water. After enlightenment, cutting wood and drawing water."
Mar. 14th, 2013 08:00 am (UTC)
Yes, that's an excellent quote.
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:13 am (UTC)
Hey, what was that BBC show about survivors during the nuclear winter? "Threads"? We had to watch that in Civics class and holy cow did that fuck us all up.
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:15 am (UTC)
Never saw that one, but "When the Wind Blows" was kind of sweet. Do you remember? The elderly english couple coping with radiation sickness?
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:31 am (UTC)
Yes! I remember seeing that at the Tate Center!

I kind of enjoy the way distopian fiction reads now ... now we're not going to be slaughtered anonymously on mass scale by fire from above, but we're all going to be pitted against each other to fight for the death for the purposes of some higher power's amusement ... "King Lear" meets "Survivor."
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:32 am (UTC)
I vote Cordelia off the island!
Mar. 14th, 2013 11:20 am (UTC)
The thing about the Christian religion is somehow over time, the truth of the message got distorted. It became, "be a good little boy or girl and when you die, you don't have to be miserable anymore," when really it was always, "follow these rules and everyone can get along. It will be awesome."

And they are right. Things would be awesome, but the trick is getting EVERYONE to follow those rules. Which is about as likely as getting everyone to wash their hands after they use the bathroom.
Mar. 14th, 2013 11:29 am (UTC)
Have you seen this guy, John Romer? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCgA1-XLA9c&feature=share&list=UUktBdTuyqvuwTjnNGiV9mrQ

Very good history of how we got from A to Fucked.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )