Monday, February 3, 2014

Perspectives on the next doomsday from The Archdruid and me

In Nablopomo for February: Perspective, I made a programming note.
I also like to examine how other bloggers see things.  In fact, I have more than a week's worth of material saved up from previous months about The Archdruid, Kunstler, Nebris, The Hipcrime Vocab, Julie Bass and others that I didn't get around to posting.  This month's theme looks like a good excuse to do that.
Here is the oldest conversation with Greer that I hadn't yet posted, my response to 2030 is the New 2012 along with his reply.

One of Greer's recurring points is that, whenever a date for doomsday comes and goes, a new one comes along.  The new date is 2030, which has no basis in any external event or prophesy.  At least 2012 tied into the Fake Mayan Apocalypse.  Greer explains that the timing has an internal logic, not an external one, one which I understand.

Greer: It’s thus surely no accident that 2030 is about the time the middle of the Baby Boom generation will be approaching the end of its statistically likely lifespan.

Me: I was wondering why that date, other than the combination of a nice round number with a time close enough to be threatening, but not too alarming.  I would think something more concrete, like either 2029 or 2036, when the asteroid Apophis, aptly named after an Egyptian deity of destruction, would fly close enough to Earth to have a chance of colliding.  Your explanation, though, makes sense given the narcissism of the Boomers.  This way, they maintain their importance even in death, while not having to give up anything beforehand.

My comment ties back to this passage.
The third factor, which relates to the second one, unfolds from the historical tragedy of the Baby Boom generation, which is massively overrepresented in apocalypse fandom just now.  The Boomers were among the most idealistic generations in US history, but they were also far and away the most privileged, and the conflict between those two influences has defined much of their trajectory through time. Starting when the Sixties youth culture crashed and burned, the Boomers have repeatedly faced forced choices between their ideals and their privileges.  Each time, the majority of Boomers—there have always been noble exceptions—chose to cling to their privileges, and then spent the next decade or so insisting at the top of their lungs that their ideals hadn’t been compromised by that choice.
I'm a Boomer myself and I've been examining the position of my generation relative to its generational neighbors for more than 20 years, which I how I became acquainted with andelku of Contemplating the Hedgehog, so Greer's observations rang true.  He described the major philosophical conflict within Boomers and how it has panned out over the past 50 years.  It's one of the reasons why I have the feeling that we're like the Moties, doomed to crash our civilization, and why I've determined to be a Crazy Eddie trying to prevent that.

Follow over the jump for more of this conversation, along with the theme song for this blog.

Greer also explains why he thinks people feel a need for a doomsday: [E]ven the gaudiest earth-splattering cataclysm is less frightening than the future I’ve described—and the future I’ve described, or one very like it, is where current trends driven by current choices are taking us at their own implacable pace.

This inspired me to pull out a re-evalution of a common collapse story.
Jared Diamond has turned Easter Island into a parable of how collapse happens and used it and the disappearance of the Norse colonies on Greenland as examples warning how not to deal with environmental destruction.  Last month, Robert Krulwich at NPR turned Diamond's reading of Easter Island on its head in "What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario."  His thesis was that the introduced rats slowly ravaged the island's endemic ecosystem.  While that happened, the natives just muddled on through until they eventually were building gardens with rocks that caught the moisture that the trees had and then ate the rats, as there wasn't much else for meat, as all the rest of the animals had gone extinct with the rest of the original forest.  Meanwhile, the people endured, worshiping their gods and coveting status objects in the midst of their ruin of an environment.

Krulwich found this alternative even more frightening.  He concluded his essay with "people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. There's a lesson here. It's not a happy one."

He then quoted J. B. MacKinnon: "If you're waiting for an ecological crisis to persuade human beings to change their troubled relationship with nature — you could be waiting a long, long time."

It's enough to evoke a couplet from "Nothing but Flowers"--"As things fell apart, nobody paid much attention."
Krulwich's reaction befuddled Greer.
Pinku-sensei, I find it utterly fascinating that the thought of being comfortable living with less is more frightening to Krulwich than a spiralling nightmare of war and cannibalism. That says something really rather eerie about today's attitudes.
Maybe it's because it scares Krulwich that nothing will stop humans from degrading their environment, including the degraded environment itself.

I'll let Talking Heads have the last word with the theme song for this blog.


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