Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/08/2009

O death, where is thy victory? Needed: one conspiracy theory

 

El Greco - Conspiracy Theory

Reprise : Watching the Discovery Channel is dangerous. Last night they again played (for the umpteenth time) “Apocalypse 2012.” I watch the idiocy and then can’t stop thinking about how dumb it is. Another morning waking up knowing what I have to write about. It’s bad enough having no choice but to sit here at the computer at 4 a.m., but knowing I must write about a given topic—what a bother! I complain about it all the time. I’ll stop. I’ll never mention it again.

 “To be an American you have to sign on to being scared. “I pledge allegiance to living in fear.” (1) 

I love the 2012 Apocalypse theories. 

These theories are nothing new, of course. I grew up among Premillennialists, Amillennialists, Postmillennialists, Mid-tribulationists, Post-tribulationists, Pre-tribulationists, and—arching over all of them, the RAPTURE. All (loosely) based on the acid-trip phantasms of what English-speaking Christians call (in our propriety), the Book of Revelation, but what all other Bible-believing people in the world call The Apocalypse. Fortunately my dad was one of the few Baptist preachers I knew who thought millennial beliefs were bunk. 

What I want to know is, were Mr. and Mrs. Winslow, Mr. and Mrs. Lanning, Mr. and Mrs. Fitts, Mr. and Mrs. . . . all those grown-ups I knew as a kid scared all the time? As I’ve written elsewhere, we had some reason to be concerned, with those missile silos all over our neck of the woods and the thousands of Russians missiles pointed at them (us). But did that make all the adults I knew scared to death?

Or is the pledge of allegiance to living in fear a new phenomenon (perhaps since September 11, 2001)? 

Horror movies scared my childhood friends out of their minds—and they loved it—but we were never allowed to see them. They were not “christian” enough or something. But we didn’t watch “The Honeymooners,” either. 

Jean Duvet - Conspiracy Theory

As we all know (so why write about it again?), the Apocalypse that’s coming in 2012 is not merely fear. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to destroy the earth. It’s likely to be caused by some explosion of radioactivity and electromagnetism and god-knows-what-else on the sun, which will excert a magnetic pull on the earth which will cause all of the earthquake faults to rupture at once which will cause megavolcanoes to erupt which will cause a midnight of ash which will have so much force that the rotation of the earth will change and we’ll all be dead. Whew! It’s going to be, well, apocalyptic. 

I can hardly wait. 

But what I want to know about all of this is, if it’s going to happen anyway, why worry about it? Obviously we can’t DO anything about it (maybe moving to the farthest continent from Yellowstone Park, where the megavolcano eruption is likely to take place: it’s already letting off steam). Maybe that’ll give us a few extra days before the earth starts turning backwards. 

This is all absolutely true because, as we all know, both Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar predict it. Besides, we are living already in the time of war and rumors of war predicted by the Bible. 

But apocalyptic theorists have not fully researched the topic. John Hobbes—what more respectable authority than he—wrote about the coming Armageddon in 1660: 

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the earth. . . .no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short…. (2) 

We are living in “a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man.” A few of the “warres” that we hear about every day: America is out to destroy the Middle East for oil; Muslims are out to destroy Western civilization for ‘‎شريعة  law; China is out to destroy the world economy; gays are out to destroy the sanctity of marriage; the American government is out to destroy the American people for the sake of the ruling class of neo-cons, and, in the process, rule the world. And on and on. 

My take on all of this is that all fear-mongering is designed for the same purpose. It is not to convince us of the pending destruction (or the destruction that has already taken place and of which we are not yet aware) of society or even the world. Rather, these conspiracy theories and apocalyptic visions and “wars and rumors of war”—even the pseudo-religious ideas of the predictions of Nostradamus  and “The Rapture”—are meant to give us excuses not to think individually about the absolute certainty of our own death. 

Which would you rather think about—how to find and punish those responsible for destroying the World Trade Center (whether American neo-cons or Muslim extremists), or the fact that a week from next Tuesday you, as you, as a physical entity, as a human being living on planet Earth, might simply and utterly cease to exist? Which would you rather think about—how to stop men who, by nature, have sex with men and women who, by nature, have sex with women from having the same conjugal rights that you have, or the absolute certainty that you will eventually be exactly as dead as those faggots and dykes? Which would you rather think about—the possibility that an Apocalypse of some sort is going to kill us all in some sort of geological, planetary, or cosmic show that will astound all of us in two years, or the fact that, once that happens you, yes you, individually and living in your own body totally apart from anyone else, will not exist after that cataclysm. And you will forget for eternity that you were ever alive—whether or not the universe had a beginning or will have an end? 

If Baudrillard is even half right, we have to have apocalyptic ideas to think about, even though we don’t want to admit either the need, or the thinking. Take 9/11, for example: 

       The fact that we have dreamt of this event, that everyone without exception has dreamt of it. . . is unacceptable to the Western moral conscience. Yet it is a fact, and one which can indeed be measured by the emotive violence of all that has been said and written in the effort to dispel it. (3)

Rubens - Conspiracy Theory

We dream of such cataclysms, I think, because they take the focus off of our own mortality. And the angrier and more preposterous our writing and talking about such cataclysms become, the more it demonstrates that we “live without other security, than what [our] own strength, and [our] own invention shall furnish [us] withal.” In the end, of course, that is no security at all. Our anger and obsession with understanding or proving the “truth” about our cataclysms prove not that we have any control over them. Rather, our “emotive violence” proves we are terrified of our own individual total lack of control over our personal world or destiny, over our death.
______  
(1)   Ash, A. (2005). “Scared mindless: The essence of being an American we never talk about.” [Book review of Fear: The history of a political idea by C. Robin, 2004]. Quoted in Fisher, Michael R. “Invoking ‘fear’ studies.” Journal of Curriculum Theorizing 22.4 (2006): 39.
(2.)  T Hobbes, Leviathan, introduction by Kenneth Minogue (JM Dent and Sons, Everyman’s Library, 1987), Part I, ‘Of Man’, Ch XIII, 64-65,66. Quoted in Gaakeer, Jeanne. “The legal hermeneutics of suffering.” Law and Humanities 3.2 (2009): 123.
(3)  Baudrillard, J. (2002). The spirit of terrorism and requiem for the twin towers. [trans. Chris Turner]. London, UK: Verso.

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