Doomsday-ism -- from "The Swillpit Chronicles"
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2010 May 10
So your earthling has been following that popular program Life After People. Interesting, interesting.
I hear that it boasts the highest viewership in the history of its hosting network. Amazing, isn't it? That they would be interested, much less fascinated, in what happens on their pitiful planet long after they have been wiped off its face. And yet they are fascinated in it. Somehow, it matters to them.
Yes, for mortals it is natural to wonder, "How will it end?" While it is generally best to steer them from serious contemplation on metaphysical matters altogether, we have found that provoking their curiosity in eschatology can be quite effective.
Such was not always the case. After that Patmos exile penned his nasty little fantasy about our defeat in a future epic battle, many of our would-be "delicacies" threw in their lot with the tale's Victor—despite his demonstrated ineptitude in real life to vanquish the lesser foes of poverty, persecution, and plague!
Their gullibility for that prattle caused us to play "catch up" for centuries. In fact, it wasn't until the middle of the last century that things began to turn in our favor again.
When the atomic bomb was dropped it produced one of the highest yields of human loss for any single event in history and, consequently, one of the most prodigious immigrations ever experienced down here. As joyous of an occasion as that was, the more significant outcome was the effect it had on confidence and age-old certainties.
In the decades preceding the War, the successes of the scientific age created unprecedented optimism for the future. As man's technological achievements mounted, so did his confidence that his mastery over nature would lead to an era of ballooning progress. But when his ultimate mastery resulted in the annihilation of two cities and hundreds of thousands of people, it deflated the belief that technical wizardry would usher in the utopian age.
Had the Bomb accomplished nothing more, our situation today would be most dire. For the aim of all our schemes is to feed their hubris until they are so absorbed by what they can accomplish and will accomplish, that their thoughts of Him evaporate behind the fancies of their self-sufficiency.
Consequently, there were a lot of nervous ninnies down here after the War. But a few visionaries, like yours truly, saw a way to gain advantage and wrench victory out of apparent defeat.
I was the first to recognize that disenchantment had been building for decades. The Great War, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the persistent issues of poverty, crime, and hunger each cast a pall over the "modern moment." I also recognized that their optimism had been founded on trust—trust in the omnipotence of science, trust in the objectivity of experts, and trust in the integrity of authorities.
As confidence in the triumvirate began to erode, so did confidence in the cohering principle of universal truth. And that presented us with an exceptional opportunity to dust off the relativism of Gorgias and put a postmodern sheen on it.
When I laid out the plan before the theater commanders, they instantly saw its merits but none, not even I, imagined the rapidity of its success... Continue reading here.