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an apocalyptic culture? « Previous | |Next »
January 23, 2007

John Kay's claim about environmentalism as an Apocalypse myth was badly stated, but it does open into a consideration of whether we are living in an apocalypse culture.

Apocalypse.jpg Such a culture expresses itself as 'our world is doomed and it has no future. The end is nigh.'

It does appear that apocalyptic dread is alive and well in popular culture; the discourse around bush fires, viruses, Avian flu, terrorists, global warming has apocalyptic themes with its fears and hopes. With respect to global warming we await the consequences.

Fatalism rules in an apocalypse culture, which has arisen from the collapse of the grand systems of thought that once dominated Western intellectual culture.

Mervyn F. Bendle argues that popular culture is awash with images and narratives of the apocalypse in various forms.

These range from war and acts of terrorism involving “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” to religious, science-fiction, horror and fantasy representations of the “End Times,” depicted in a wide range of media including novels, comics, film, television and video games.

Bendle's argument is that we are are living a move away from a basically liberal optimistic outlook that complemented secular faith in human progress based on reason, science, technology and social amelioration, towards a far more pessimistic view that distrusts these values, and instead sees the near future in terms of social disintegration, violence, war and ultimate catastrophe, before a final deliverance brought by divine power. It is this dark vision that now shapes the contemporary apocalyptic imagination in both its religious and secular forms.

Dominic over at Poetix argues that:

We should acknowledge that our world is doomed, that it has no future; but also that it is not the only possible world, that other worlds have been and will be. The world that is to come is not the future of our world; it is not the world we intended for our children, who arrive, as all children must, at the edge of the void. Barbarism, yes: the present barbarism, the barbarism of the ages, limitlessly cunning and polymorphous and yet always ultimately the servant of the same intransigent stupidity and imaginative incapacity. Barbarism and then socialism? It remains to be seen.

K-Punk disagrees. We live in a post-apocalyptic culture in that apocalyptic dread has receded from the popular unconscious:
In many ways, however, we have ceased to imagine the end of the world just as surely as we have lost our ability to imagine the end of capitalism. Oddly, apocalyptic dread - so omnipresent during the Cold War - seems to have been extirpated from the popular unconscious. The possibility of environmental catastrophe may well be entertained as a rational hypothesis, but it does not dominate our collective dreams in the way that the threat of nuclear annihilation once did...t's worth pausing here to reflect that, in the debates over climate change, it is no longer the apocalyptic potential of current trends that is disputed; what is doubted is whether any effective action could be taken to deal with it.

It is increasingly difficult to imagine alternatives to capitalism:---the world goes on, but nothing new can ever happen. What remains is cloning and recombination of capitalism. Is that the only option? How about the self- destruction of capitalism due to the economy's laying waste to its ecological life support, and its inablity to resolve this contradiction?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 06:13 AM | | Comments (0)
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