Contemplation: Apocolypse, American Style

So somehow I missed Slate.com’s week long examination about the possible end of the United States of America.  Fortunately I was alerted to these pieces by Scott the Coffee Guy (whom I mentioned in the previous post).  They might be pretty long articles but if you share any of the interests like myself you will probably find them fascinating (especially the “Choose Your Own Apocalypse” tool/toy).

So yeah, anyone who has tuned into my blog at regular intervals has probably become a bit aware of my interest in apocalyism (I don’t think that this is a real word, I also don’t give a fuck).  I didn’t name this blog “General Lordisimo’s Apocalypse” for no reason (part of it was definitely just getting to refer to myself as Lordisimo, but also because when I started this blog I was noting a lot of signs of the end time – this second part is ongoing). 

There seems to be something especially American in our interest in the end of the world.  Probably a lot of this is based upon our nation’s Puritan background and special breeds of Christianity (especially of the evangelical/fundamentalist ilk).  Just think about it a bit.  Think about our culture, our arts, or pastimes.  I’d say you do not have to look too far to encounter material in our nation that speaks volumes about our interest in the eventual end of days.

Perhaps it is partially formed from a historical hindsight which can note how many other great empires of yore have come to their eventual end.  It would be foolish (and the Slate.com articles seem to repeat this a number of times themselves) to assume that the United States will last forever.  Does this mean that there is an apocalypse waiting around every corner for our country?  No, of course not, but I would suggest that it begs a kind of realistic outlook which can comprehend that no nation or vast society ever last eternally, whether  we would like it to or not.

So the question is, “When will it happen for the good ol’ US of A?”

If you ask me, short of some very severe natural disasters (asteroids, destructive cosmic rays, super volcanoes, etc.) or all-out nuclear war, or zombies, the end of the United States will likely be a slower decline.  Sure we might be experiencing some tough times right now with our weakened economy, our military involvements, and our still frail world reputation, but I do not think that this is any particular signs of the apocalypse.  I think it is more likely just a bump in the road for our country, one which we will eventually come out of and move beyond (though likely the nation will be noticeably different from the way it was prior to these “tough times”).

Like I said, I personally foresee a slower sliding and desolving USA, and in some ways that might be worse for that nation as a whole then a major disaster.  Okay a giant asteroid or the zombies would be pretty fucking bad, but the damage to our nation’s pride as its influence slowly diminishes would likely help stoke other fires of a failing empire (and while we like to often avoid the talk of the American Empire, that is certainly what we are).  We talk about developed nations versus the third world with a sense that we will always sit on top and not have to worry about the struggles of the developing world.  This might not always be the case.  I would be willing to bet that there comes a certain equilibrium of how many world powers there can be at any given time in the world.   I don’t know what the maximum capacity might be, but my assumption is that once a certain amount of nations possess a critical degree of world influence, it is inevitable that conflict will arise between them in regards to opting for further influence.  Sometimes this will lead to war, other times it will simply cause certain nations to lose power and diminish to make room for others.  Either way it would create a shifting of power structures in the world which could inevitably cause a fall of our own country.

As China begins to really become a prominent player in world politics. production, and power we do need to consider the possibility that within the next half century the USA might no longer be that sole contender of policing the world and influencing world affairs.  We are seeing this happen live every day.  Does this mean that a war between the USA and China is necessarily going to happen?  I would personally hope not, but it might eventually lead to that.  What it comes down to is that we need to accept that we might soon be sharing the load of major world influence with one or two other nations.

Of course we could always potentially face the more extreme apocalypse scenarios like say the robot overlords or the return of pterodactyls but these ones seem to have less of a probability than “the slow decline.”  Further I could imagine something which we do not really view as a full apocalypse but instead just a system of change and differentiation which would render the future existence of this country completely unrecognizable and alien to our current world.  I am thinking a little bit about the novel “Fitzpatrick’s War” by Theodore Judson in which a number of various social upheavals and technological advancements at the end of the 21st century cause America to collapse from within to be replaced by a new massive world power called The Yukon Confederacy.  It is a really interesting book and takes a fascinating look at a future world drastically different from our own current era.

Admittedly my interest in apocalypse type scenarios is not born out of any religious background.  Instead I attribute it to a book I read way back in like 6th grade.  It was called The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson.  The plot of the story (for those who are not familiar with it) is about a world in which everybody over the age of 12 has succumbed to a deadly plague leaving a world populated by children.  Something about the plot of a world “post-civilization” really fascinated me as a child (it helped that the book was about like aged children proving their ability in a rough and dangerous world).  Only a few years after reading The Girl Who Owned a City I picked up a much better known book about the apocalypse, that being Stephen Kings The Stand(which to date is still probably one of my favorite novels by Mr. King – and I like most of his books).  I had also at this point been exposed to other pop-culture portrayals of the world after some great fall of civilization in the forms of the Mad Max films and “Water World” and a few others around there.  I think my mother was picking up and reading the “Left Behind” series right then (which I never read myself, because the biblical look at the end of the world, especially as described in “The Book of Revelations” has never really interested me all that much – even if it did influence The Stand and other apocalyptic works which I enjoyed).  Another great work I read around this time was the short story “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benét, which described the exploration of a city in a post-apocalypse world.

All of these stories and movies led me to think a lot about how I would react to an apocalypse myself.  I remember sometimes walking around my neighborhood and not seeing anybody and wondering if maybe everybody had just disappeared and I would have to fend for myself now.  On one of these occasions I was followed by a big St. Bernard dog who liked to wander around our neighborhood back in the day.  I imagined a story in which the dog and I had to survive by ourselves with only each other as companions.  I’ll admit that I still sometimes think about the idea of waking up and having the world as I know it be rendered obsolete.  It isn’t to say I want this to happen, it is just something I think about.

And I must not be alone.  As the popularity of novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and movies like Children of Men seem like pretty strong indicators that apocalyism is ripe.  I think the reason why (besides what I’ve mentioned above) is an inevitable outlook.  While we may try not to think about it all that much we all know that someday we are going to die, and heck if that is bound to happen than isn’t it just as possible that the world will be going the same way as us?  Well scientifically speak it certainly is.  In some cool billion years (like five billion or so) our Sun is going to expand and likely consume the Earth in all sorts of fiery destruction.  This won’t even really matter to us considering that in many millions of years (but before the expansion of the Sun) the change in solar luminosity will likely boil all of the water off our planet making it an inhospitable rock.  Assuming we are still around at that point, and haven’t inhabited other planets or some such, we are likely to go the way of the dinosaurs.  But even assuming that we survive the demise of Earth to an increasingly destructive Sun, then we have to face the end of time itself in which the Universe will end.  That is likely billions and billions of years in the future but it will happen in likely one of three scenarios.

  1. The Big Crunch: The Opposite of the Big Bang.  The increased mass of the Universe collapses back in on itself to that mathematical point of vast compaction. This, in recent years, has become a less likely scenario in that the Universe appears to be expanding at an increasingly fast rate.
  2. The Big Chill: The Universe continues to expand and with it so does entropy until eventually there are no more stars, no more galaxies, no more anything besides vast cold endless space and few scattered black holes humming away and spilling out little bits of radiation.
  3. The Big Rip:  Eventually the Universe’s expansion increases to such a speed and point that it literally tears itself, and all matter in it, apart.

So yeah, that all might be a really really long time away, and we will all be long dead by then anyhow, but that is kind of what the potential forecasts for the Universe’s future look like.

So it is going to end, can we agree upon that?  Now the question is “Well what should we do about it?”  Personally I will take my regular absurdist stance on it which just says “we deal with it.  We persevere in our moment and we don’t stress or fret too much because ultimately there probably isn’t a lot we can do one way or another.  It is absurd and ridiculous to get all worked up and upset over things you cannot control or change, so just don’t and move on.”

Well that about wraps it up.  Happy apocalypse dreamings to you all.

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~ by Nathaniel on September 17, 2009.

One Response to “Contemplation: Apocolypse, American Style”

  1. […] Last week I wrote a lengthy contemplation of the interest and possibility of the end of the world (if not everything).  This week I will spare you most of the length and tell you that you should just read through […]

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