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Age of Apocalypse: Where Right & Left Intersect

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(Article changed on October 16, 2013 at 16:00)

(Article changed on October 16, 2013 at 15:34)


A hermit back from deep forest haunts, perusing the wings of online punditry, would be staggered by pervasive, oddly-parallel End of Times bombshells. Throw in frazzled ecosystem scientists for a third homily on looming Armageddon. While rightwingers with crackers for brains bewail how Obamacare and ruinous debts are sure to bankrupt American, if not western civilization, leftwing voices snicker, "what civilization"?

Hail the Age of Apocalypse, a step up from the 20th C.'s Age of Anxiety or the 19th C.'s Great Awakening. While belief systems diverge widely, partisans rounding out the edges sound a similar drumbeat: our world is crashing -- doomed by financial, cultural, religious and/or environmental collapse. The end isn't just near but encircling us, and doomsday criers only wonder that the terminal patient is still breathing. The magnitude of doom is matched only by the certainty of the Jeremiahs.

Grim scenarios are nothing new, and by 2010 evangelicals and scientists were sounding like End of Times cousins. Andy Borowitz' joke fits perfectly: "Senator Ted Cruz raised the ante in the battle over the Affordable Care Act on Sunday, telling CNN's Candy Crowley that "destroying the entire planet is really the best and only way to stop Obamacare.'"

Ingrained apocalyptic visions surfaced long before the week's Great Debt Melodrama, itself prompting this funny advisory from Huffington Post, "A Survival Guide To The Debt Ceiling Default Apocalypse." Predictably, Tea Party "experts" pooh-pooh mere economists who "believe" credit ratings determine national credibility. Armageddon acolytes on Cruz control, like climate and evolution deniers, worship the realm of beliefs and opinions. The more far-fetched and conspiratorial, the better.   

No Equivalence Implied

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That political outliers sound related alarms doesn't for a moment imply equivalence, moral or intellectual. Only witlings cheer on the militant lunacy of the Rapturous right, bristling with ignorance about language, culture and Biblical history. That folly contrasts dramatically with well-informed pessimists, whether climate scientists, or leftwing progressives like Chris Hedges or Paul Craig Roberts. For me, savvier Jeremiahs follow film critic Pauline Kael's defense of calculated overstatement: promote heavily or breakthroughs get ignored. Nor do I deny extraordinary threats: climate warming, devastation to oceans, nor a destabilizing, American wealth gap time bomb.  

But socio-economic instability, and enduring hard times, don't prove broken capitalism is about to collapse, that Wall Street or Washington will soon implode, nor that America is inexorably in decline. Were any of that to happen, by the by, what organized and effective movement would step in to rebuild something better? The high anxiety behind the Age of Apocalypse comes down to "this time is different, the crimes so vast, the status quo must tumble like Humpty-Dumpty." Gloom may reassure the gloomy, but heartfelt assertion is not proof.  

That systemic stress is high, and pain enormous, doesn't mean major intact powers are suddenly vulnerable, nor without defenses. Look, Mr. Hedges and allies are right, eventually -- doom comes to empires and extinction to species, especially cultures that mishandle resources. But where's evidence anything big is imminent, nor concession of entrenched resilience. Calculation, money and high-tech armed forces will not roll over. Open conflict aside, does adaptable, human ingenuity not factor at all in facing up to undeniable problems?

We are a self-interested, voracious species, but creative imagination, buttressed by pressing necessity, will address the worst downsides of industrialism, like urban pollution, if only to keep workers healthy and the system functional. Realism, if not history, challenges despair married to desolation.

Timing the Debacle

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Hell, it's possible for Palin-Bachmann's Rapture obsessions to come to pass. That must overcome immense convolutions for the patchwork Rapture, sequences beset with improbability and magic thinking. Evangelicals stand fast with Israel not out of love for Jews (who must ultimately convert or perish) but because Holy Land conditions fit snugly in their fantasy script. Lost in the shuffle is vaunted compassion for the non-Christian billions who perish badly when the Elect painlessly rise to heaven. Death has no sting when this brand of triumphant Christianity runs roughshod. Would Jesus weep, or what?

By the way, U.S. Christians are especially infected with Rapture disorders: nearly 48% reckon Jesus will "probably" or "definitely" return to save sinners, once and for all, before 2065 (10% just "don't know").   Why not, instead of Final Judgment, let's envision Jesus mandating spiritual growth, population restraint, comforting the poor, even commanding a truce to the endless wars likely over resources? Why must the Second Coming be such a downer?

Yes, climate change augurs devastation, but does that automatically endstop the human story? That we are unprepared for repeated global winters, emerging after huge volcanic eruptions or crashes with large, wandering rocks, is undeniable. That the most powerful countries will further maul the earth, with conventional belligerence or nukes, is certainly depressing. Yet even if brutal haves with better technology conquer have-nots, does that, per a recent PBS special, spell species extinction? Will greater world starvation wipe out the American empire, or western powers, or impede the Chinese monolith? Global warming will painfully "correct" overpopulation, but is that apocalypse?

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Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)

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Are we toast?What is the incentive for many, left ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 3:13:39 PM
I would recommend the book by Nicholas Taleb ' Ant... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 4:08:54 PM
To me those on the far right wanting a rapture are... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 4:31:23 PM
Yes, even if God informed some reliable prophet wh... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 6:34:08 PM
Damn my comment did not post.  Try again in t... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 6:25:51 PM
It may not all end up in oblivion but humans certa... by anna kakol on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 2:38:32 PM
Things will get bad for the poorest with bleakest ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 4:23:44 PM
living things do thrive better when optimum levels... by anna kakol on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 5:15:39 PM
You are right that Apocalypse doesn't mean natural... by E. J. N. on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 5:13:28 PM
I was not at all referring to the original Jeremia... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 8:07:07 PM
Thanks for that clarification. I'm glad it doesn't... by E. J. N. on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 12:54:46 PM
This is the age of denouement; when all the puzzle... by molly cruz on Thursday, Oct 17, 2013 at 8:07:27 PM
Does the 'apocalypse' have to be a downer? That wo... by R. A. Landbeck on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 6:15:58 AM
I was at best half serious in both the downer comm... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 9:20:46 AM
The Apocalypse is a downer for the richest, greedi... by E. J. N. on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 1:13:42 PM
Reading the writing on the wall -  My reading... by Philip Pease on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 11:15:36 AM
Dire future for whom? Your rather generalized comm... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 12:23:29 PM
Why I made my comment is that indeed Revelations i... by Philip Pease on Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 at 9:50:45 AM
Here is a blog by me about how these latter days w... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 12:20:29 PM
Okay, per instructions, you are a nut, but a frien... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 12:31:15 PM
Robert, even though you believe that nothing writt... by E. J. N. on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 1:28:24 PM
Name two or three prophesies, specific and verifia... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:19:20 PM
There were 4 beasts in Daniel 7 which I see as Ame... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:40:53 PM
I'm with Robert on this one, which prophesies have... by anna kakol on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:51:43 PM
Yes, if you remove the heavy symbolism or highly m... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 5:08:19 PM
I think to understand genuine prophecies one has t... by E. J. N. on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 9:07:44 PM
I don't think this is about whether humans possess... by anna kakol on Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 at 10:51:54 AM
Good question. But no man is "absolutely right." N... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 2:22:26 PM
My issue is pragmatic.  That "truth" which is... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 3:33:04 PM
What if Rock & Roll came down from above, whil... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 4:25:43 PM
But this artform came from specific cultures with ... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 5:17:55 PM
A few things have been fulfilled, the good news of... by Michael Dewey on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 3:53:13 PM
Robert, I'm sorry we're so far apart in our unders... by E. J. N. on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 2:46:16 PM
Point 2: Robert, while you think that the truth I ... by E. J. N. on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 2:54:10 PM
Thanks for the full explanation, though we are not... by Robert S. Becker on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 3:47:26 PM
"It is the mystics in the world who can show human... by Robert S. Becker on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:02:48 PM
Why do you believe in a God that you claim not to ... by Michael Dewey on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:51:44 PM
"Robert you speak too much to much of the trash fr... by Robert S. Becker on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 5:24:15 PM
Sorry I was out of line.... by Michael Dewey on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 5:18:46 AM
Thanks for hearing my response.  To err is hu... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 10:48:35 AM
As the song goes 2 out of 3 ain't bad.  Ethio... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:48:10 PM