YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 21, 2013

Apocalyptic landscapes and the escape artist

Pierre Massine's Apocalypse

Pierre Massine’s Apocalypse

Here is a sampling of prior blogs on the subject of apocalypse as irrationalist insistence on inevitable decadence.

http://clarespark.com/2009/11/17/melencolia-i-and-the-apocalypse-1938/

http://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/

http://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/

http://clarespark.com/2009/11/19/the-scary-city-lamprecht-becker-lynd/

http://clarespark.com/2011/04/03/progressives-the-luxury-debate-and-decadence/ (read this first)

http://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/

http://clarespark.com/2013/03/22/traditionalists-on-the-culture-front/

Commentary: All parents are aware that toddlers go through years of fearing “monsters.”  Many sleep problems are associated with such imagos (images instigated by angry parents of either gender, or fighting in front of children, or images gleaned from mass media and some religions).

Counter-Enlightenment publicists mobilize such childhood fears (reinforced in popular culture and political propaganda) to influence public opinion in directions that are statist, even protofascist.  For instance, “progressive” schools introduce such terrifying subjects as the monstrosities of the Holocaust or of slavery before students have the emotional equipment to deal with them as events in the past, or to evaluate the claims that their effects linger in the present. Is it any wonder that teen-agers lap up horror movies featuring vampires and zombies, movies that may trivialize real life horrors or in the knowable past and predictable future? These kids are easy marks for movie and television producers who would have them live in a world populated by monsters–monsters who disappear when the lights go on; these and other propagandists denigrate the science and technology that will enable youngsters to navigate, with realism, all grown-up controversies.

My argument: it is impossible to have rational political debate on controversial subjects such as environmentalism or immigration reform in this infantilized atmosphere. What is increasingly clear to me is that the forces of reaction have the upper hand in popular culture. Have we turned into a nation of escape artists—escaping the responsibilities of citizenship through socially-induced regression? How convenient it is for the morally and politically lazy to pronounce that we are doomed.  Both liberals and conservatives should think through their own views on progress before they inflict their possible pessimism and depression on the young.

Here is an example of how a liberal publication criticizes apocalyptic thinking in order to argue for political action to halt man-made climate change. We need a more comprehensive critique of apocalyptic thinking than The Atlantic  offers us here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/04/how-apocalyptic-thinking-prevents-us-from-taking-political-action/255758/.

Oil refinery as The End

Oil refinery as The End

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4 Comments »

  1. […] For other apocalyptic landscapes, see http://clarespark.com/2013/06/21/apocalypse-and-the-escape-artist/. […]

    Pingback by Melancholia as a way of life | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 1, 2014 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  2. Many thanks for a timely subject. I agree with you that the Atlantic article, while bringing the issue of distortion and manipulation of apocalyptic thinking forward, falls victim to the very mechanism of fear it critiques, esp. with regard to the dialogue about climate change. I have links to three references from the NOAA, the NCDC and the USGS that directly contradict claims made in the article if anyone is interested.

    Comment by Terbreugghen — June 22, 2013 @ 3:13 am | Reply

  3. The Atlantic depiction of a destroyed Oil Refinery as The End is a sad commentary on what passes for intelligent discussion in America today. Whoever dreamt this up hasn’t a clue as to what has been accomplished in pollution reduction over the past 40 years and how over the top is the rhetoric from the left about the dangers of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. I am sure that the person who produced this worthless piece of “art” does not have the slightest idea as to what his (or her) life would be without the loathed refineries, or would not, in fact, be willing to live in a world without its products. This reminds me of your recent piece about Wieseltier and his nostalgia for the middle ages. New York City elites would do well to visit the heartland once in a while to get an appreciation of what it takes for so many hard working people to give them their undeserved posh life style.

    Comment by Bob Ennis — June 21, 2013 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

    • I got the illustration of the oil refinery off the internet by googling “apocalypse.” It was not in the Atlantic article. When I first saw the oil refinery picture I thought it was a city as imagined by an extreme pessimist.

      Comment by clarelspark — June 21, 2013 @ 11:55 pm | Reply


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