The latest in a long line of supposedly doom-filled dates passed without incident last weekend. I’m a little concerned that I’ll end up oversleeping and miss the event, if and when it finally does come to pass. I’d hate waking up late to discover half the planet on fire before I’d had my morning coffee and croissant.
Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day”
I guess eventually one of these silly end of the world predictions might actually get it right, purely by chance. Of course those who share this nonsense won’t have much time to enjoy their brief moment of triumph. They’ll be too busy running from all the giant tsunamis, earthquakes or general planetary disintegration to do much gloating. It’s hard to feel smug when you’re up to your arse in a lake of molten lava.
Why are we so obsessed with the end of the world? You can barely keep track of the TV shows, movies and comic books dealing with some type of Armageddon (or, more recently, Ragnarok) scenario.
A psychologist would probably say we like to expose ourselves to existential threats in a safe way. The unending popularity of horror, murder and global catastrophe narratives suggests they may have a useful function. We can safely rehearse for the worst, or just enjoy the illicit thrill of seeing civilisation crumble, without any real pain or loss of life. We love a good scare, although control and context is everything.
The influence of past plagues, floods and other disasters is another factor. If our ancestors experienced some local catastrophe, they had no way to quickly check what was happening in Cairo, Copenhagen or Cardiff. As far as they knew, the locusts/flood/earthquake destroying their land was a threat to all people, surely the wrath of a vengeful and angry god (or gods). The end of the world! Not hard to see how such events made their way into their holy books and ultimately influenced our storytelling.
It seems rather bizarre to accept the idea that a god might create a species and then choose to murder most of them when they don’t behave as he/she had hoped. I mean whose fault is that??? And couldn’t he/she have settled for a stern ticking off, or sending them to bed with no supper?
Nowadays, we have a slightly better grasp of why terrible cataclysms occur. We can measure the shifts in tectonic plates that trigger earthquakes or volcanoes, plot the courses of (some) celestial objects that threaten a deep impact, and take steps to try and reduce the worst effects of man-made climate change, assuming it’s not already too late.
Not everyone accepts man-made climate change as fact, especially among some of the more deeply-religious fringes, who feel that only a god (or gods) can mess about with our weather patterns, or play with the global thermostat to murder a few million folks for no obvious reason. Of course religious people have no more protection from climate extremes (or rogue meteors) than the rest of us. Praying might make them feel better, but when a tornado (or indeed meteor) is barrelling towards your home or church at great speed, an emergency shelter is a safer bet.
I imagine some people take comfort from the pseudo-knowledge of religious prophecies, on the grounds it’s better the devil you know. Living in a completely random universe filled with myriad dangers, where our whole species could be wiped out in the briefest of timescales is quite a terrifying reality to face. But we all have to face difficult realities sooner or later, whether it’s the horrors of Brexit under the Tories, an evil clown in the Oval Office or the possibility of another TV show featuring James Corden.
We must not stop fighting to upgrade our deeply flawed democracies. We have to challenge a system that allows greedy, short-sighted corporations to own politicians and set the agenda, putting their profits before the health of our planet and the future prosperity of all its inhabitants.
Winston Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. Perhaps he was right, but it’s up to all of us to keep trying to improve it.
Many scientists believe that a major global cataclysm is inevitable and the only hope for our species in the longer term is to colonize other planets (anywhere except Uranus..).
The planned Space X Mars mission is a start, and I’d love to see some more really ambitious exploration projects over the next few years. If they include sending Trump, the Tory party (and, ideally, James Corden) on a one-way trip where no one has gone before, so much the better.
*Original Star Trek theme starts playing…*
Warp Factor nine Mr Sulu!
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017