The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Brother Jim writes:
“I fantasize about a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people can start all over”? Who the hell are these people?
Fans of The Walking Dead and other zombie literature, fans of apocalyptic literature more broadly, readers of right-wing survivalist novels, and global-warming fantasists, among others. The popularity of right-wing survivalist literature roughly parallels that of zombie stories; they are more or less the same thing, with the zombies providing a veneer of distancing irony for the cool kids in Brooklyn. The eco-disaster genre is the same thing with a large dose of progressive moralism. (Progressives love moralism, but they can’t stomach religion; hence the current practice of rewriting The Scarlet Letter as a Twitter episode — puritanism without puritans.) As Xander Cage put it, “Before you ask someone to save the world, make sure they like it the way it is.” The world has to be ending, the country has to be failing, the system has to be corrupt, etc., because the alternative — that we are mainly responsible for our own failures and our own unhappiness — is unbearable to many people.
Being a child of the Eighties, I know how this goes: It couldn’t be that epidemic divorce and negligent parenting were messing up America’s children, it had to be . . . Ozzy Osbourne. Or a nice young man like Dee Snider. Local government wasn’t failing, it was beset by “super-predators.” The churches weren’t corrupt and uninspiring — it was Dungeons & Dragons leading the nation’s youth away from Sunday school. Etc.
The world, as everybody knew, was coming to an end, if not at the hands of the Soviets then at the hands of Judas Priest.
The longing for a purifying catastrophe is normal and episodic. Some people cheer for Noah, some cheer for the flood. (I voted for the meteor in 2016.) We’re having our millennial freakout twenty years behind schedule.
I get a little nervous when that scorched-earth attitude is exhibited by people who have immediate access to a navy and nuclear weapons and such, or who are likely to have such access, but, in general, this rhetoric represents only the usual extended adolescence that is the American way.
Jim also writes:
If you wanted to encapsulate the antithesis of conservatism, you would probably say things like, “I think society should be burned to the ground” or “I just feel like destroying beautiful things.” This is nihilism and anarchism, conserving nothing, and it is maddening to see lazy, ill-informed, or mendacious observers conflate these attitudes with tenets of modern conservatism.
Couldn’t agree more. You know who needs to hear that? Republicans.
My own “antithesis of conservatism” — “Things couldn’t possibly be any worse” — is not entirely unrelated.
The main indicator that the world is coming to an end is that I find myself agreeing with about 80 percent of a Thomas Edsall column for the second or third time in the past few months. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!