Apocalypse Now and Then: Our Global Death Wish
Some people belong to the church of ‘We’re all doomed!’ & hang their faith like a hat on every crisis; and where they can’t find real crisis they create imaginary ones.
Suppose Europe’s debt crisis leads to a fracturing of the eurozone and the ripple effect leads to a global depression worse than the one we’re slowly climbing out of. And suppose as a result of the economic chaos, there are riots in Europe and the U.S., with right-wing militias in a near civil war with failing governments, mass disruptions in the food supply, perhaps even global economic collapse and a breakdown of the social order.
Somewhere in that chain of events, most readers stopped supposing. But many others, if the statistics are right, are still with me, and might go further still, envisioning a massive breakdown and/or revolution in the world order, in very short time.
The latter view is a secular form of millennialism, the scholarly term for the belief that a wholesale transformation of the world, for better or for worse, is imminent. And as two massive new tomes, Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth and the The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism edited by Catherine Wessinger, very helpfully demonstrate, our own beliefs and fears about politics, economics, and the environmental crisis, are not so distant from ancient apocalyptic prophecies about the end of the world, the Second Coming, or the rapture. Sure, our anxieties may be grounded in ‘facts,’ but the ancients thought theirs were too. What’s more important is the pattern of millennial thinking, which has always been with us and, unless the world is about to end, likely always will be.