In his New York Magazine post, The End of the World As They Know It, Kurt Anderson thinks he knows why everyone has “apocalypse fever.” He takes his readers on a gooseflesher tour of a skanky crystal ball.
There’s Daniel Pinchbeck with 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, of course, proving that shamans know everything. Carrying on the Mesoamerican theme is Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, with its school-marmish lessons in Mayan language and calendarism.
Then there’s Jared Diamond’s new book Collapse. Though not as shrill as Pinchbeck, Diamond reveals that past societies have tumbled because of environmental reckless and irrational religion. I wonder, in passing, if Diamond remains so sanguine after finding out that the Easter Island people didn’t waste away from recklessness and irrationality nearly so much as they got overwhelmed by the European imports of smallpox and rats.
There’s the Muslim frisson, naturally. Anderson points out that we have Bernard Lewis to thank for doing the Paul Revere thing last month. It was only a few weeks ago that we heard, from Lewis and President Ahmadinejad, that a new Caliph, the Shiite messiah, was coming, and that August 22nd had something to do with this.
You might as well add yours truly to the mix. I’ve been, in these pages, rather shrill about Islam.And the way Anderson writes it, I shouldn’t get too comfortable stuck with such a company of goofiness: Mad Max, Left Behind, Pinchbeck, The Postman, Robertson, The Day After, The Day After Tomorrow (yes it was cool, rather, but arctic hurricanes? come on).
I suppose that I shouldn’t be over-discomfited. After all, there are high-end Cassandra’s on the list. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has just come out: this sounds like a heady mix of Huck Finn, Kerouac and Mel Gibson. I will not read this brew. I am a fan of McCarthy’s prose styling, but I am only now getting over the black dog brought on from reading his last two books (and those two were not even post-nuclear, or post-asteroid-impact, or post-Imam-and-shariah, or post-global-warming, or post-Rapture, or post-you-fill-in-the-blank).
Niall Ferguson and Charles Krauthammer are respectable, at least, if not agreeable. The former warns that America’s fall, hastened by overextended credit, decadent spectacles and tsunami-like immigrations, will outdo the one screenplayed by Gibbon. The latter is strangely Strangelovian, as Anderson correctly points out: the compleat neocon has suggested, in a recent ukase, that an American attack on Iran is a good idea, despite some rather untoward consequences.
Anderson’s point in stringing these crystal balls together is that they form a necklace. He says that they all form a maudlin Baby-Boomer Swansong. He waxes nostalgic about other apocalyptic moments: the nuclear scare, the nuclear-freeze fever, and now the Imam heat wave. I could add a few, having spent my entire pre-pubescence and adolescence checking in on my innocent little brother first thing in the morning, to assure myself that Gabriel did not blow his horn, rapturously.
He says, and I agree, that Baby-Boomers can’t believe that after they twaddle off stage left, the show will go on: “For half a century, they have dominated the culture, and now, as they enter the glide path to death, I think their generational solipsism unconsciously extrapolates approaching personal doom: When I go, everything goes with me, my end will be the end.”
Now there’s an indictment.
Up next, "What the Apocalypse Can Do for You," or "The End at Fallingwater."