Anyone who has read my old blog will know my tendency to catastrophize whenever I read something that upsets me in the news. These last few weeks have been no exception. It seems like the news likes to constantly talk about the impending energy crisis this winter. So after two years of pestilence due to COVID, the Russian war on Ukraine beginning this last Feburary, it's only fitting that an energy famine comes along before we are all reaped by the final horseman, Death. I'll be amazed if I live to see my 40th birthday.
I have generally never felt all that hopeful regarding the future, but for the most part I felt that the impending feeling of doom that hanged over me had more to do with my personality than anything that was happening in the world at any given time. I've been fasinated by entertainment with apocalyptic themes since I was a teenager. Whenever I hear about some prophecy or another, I try to keep it in the back of my mind just so I can try to recall it if things begin to go badly.
As I've gotten older, I've tried to become more sophisticated with my eschatology. Instead of viewing my obsession with the end of the world as some kind of worry about the world actually ending, I began seeing the concept of the Apocalypse as something I project the fear of my own death onto. It so much easier to worry about a hypothetical event sometime in the future where we all bite it instead of spiralling inward with anxiety thinking how my own life has meant nothing and I am going to eventually die. If the whole world is going to come collapsing down, I will not be alone in my life ending in a meaningless whimper. Shared misery is so much easier to accept.
I came across an article in the Guardian recently called "The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse" by Douglas Rushkoff. The article had so outlandishly out-of-touch personalities in it that I felt like an episode of a science fiction series. Actually, there is an episode of the TV show Millenium which pretty much follows the plot of the article exactly. I'll leave you to read the article yourself if you want, but long story short: rich elites are building bunkers, buying guns, and preparing for the end of society. The article had so many demented quotes in it that I would think it was some kind of satire if it wasn't for it being published in the Guardian. Take this quote from the article, for instance, where one of the rich men the writer interviews muses about how his compound is going to handle raiders:
“Honestly, I am less concerned about gangs with guns than the woman at the end of the driveway holding a baby and asking for food.” He paused, and sighed, “I don’t want to be in that moral dilemma.”
There are plenty of more quotes I could pull up that made me stop reading in shock. If anything, the writer succeeded and got me to buy his book. The article goes on to talk about how completely helpless even these well-funded survival bunkers are going to be when society rips itself apart and the self-delusion tech entrepreneurs have created for themselves, what Rushkoff calls "the Mindset". The million-dollar doomsday bunkers are fascinating to read about but it's the Mindset that really caught my attention:
Maybe the apocalypse is less something they’re trying to escape than an excuse to realise The Mindset’s true goal: to rise above mere mortals and execute the ultimate exit strategy.
I think that is something that a lot of apocalyptic thinking draws on. It's the ultimate ego-trip. It's standing on the Ark and watching the world drown or being the guy in his fallout shelter looking out as everyone else is running scared. Even if you can't save yourself, there is a kind of psychological reward for just having been able to forsee the End.
One of the most notable examples of the ego-trip apocalypse story was a comic book I read years ago called "Survive!" by Don Lomax. It had a single-issue run but the way it was written was just something to marvel at. The comic starts with an army veteran being laughed at as he builds a shelter for his family. Then the sirens start blaring and he marches his family down into the shelter. People surround the shelter and he tells them to take cover and make it on their own as he closes the door. The nukes come raining down and he and his wife drink wine and the world is cleansed with nuclear fire. It gets totally sadistic toward the end to pornographic degree: at some point the main character goes out to forage for supplies and ammo when he comes across a burnt up lady who is dying of hunger and says the main character can do whatever he wants to her as long as she can get something to eat, she'll even settle for eating his shit. Talk about disaster porn....
I'm reading Rushkoff's book now and started the book in the middle with a chapter that dealt with a subject I've been thinking about for years now: how psychedelics are used by the privileged to further refine their egotistical thinking and justify their lifestyles. As a pretty introspective person that's spent a fair amount of time doing hippy shit like meditating, keeping a dream journal, and spending time in nature, I've been disturbed with the rosy depiction of psychedelics recently in the media. There's video series like Hamilton's Pharmacopeia that try to paint psychedelics as mere 'tools' to explore consciousness and news articles about the Psychedelic Renaissance that promises to cure the world of it's psychic trauma one acid trip at a time. Don't even get me started on the whole microdosing fad.
It's extremely tempting to want to believe that there are these powerful substances you can straight-up buy from somewhere that completely reset your life and allow you to catch a glimpse of enlightenment. If it's to be believed, all you'd need to do to become a better, more loving person is to buy and take some ecstasy: the ultimate capitalist solution to heal a crippled soul. I don't think I need to convince you that the wisest, most balanced and loving people are not the ones who drop acid every day. If anything it's quite the opposite: the people who are the most into using drugs as spiritual tools are usually the ones that are the most narcissistic and the most prone to use these drugs to daze and confuse others in a bid to control them.
Suffice to say, I find it hilarious that we now have millionaires tripping in the desert during Burning Man and then deciding to build luxury doomsday vaults and let the plebs die out and fight amongst themselves. We truly live in the Century of the Self.
As you wait for me to finish Rushkoff's book and write another post, you might want to take a look at Practical Doomsday by Michal Zalewski to read more about preparing for and surviving your own personal apocalypse. I have a small library of prepper manuals that I enjoy reading once in a while for a couple of reasons. First, it gives me a sense of doing something in the face of an unavoidable disaster and makes me feel a little less hopeless. Secondly, it's interesting to see what kinds of disaster scenarios people come up with; it gives me some insight into how people see the world and what kinds of fears media has been able to instill into us as a society.
I'll write more once I get further into the book. The philosophical ideas in the book are what fascinate me the most, specifically the idea of how the focus on the individual has warped with capitalism to create and uphold a class of people that want nothing more than to be completely self-sufficent, be it in a doomsday bunker or a colony on Mars. It's like taking the darkest, most selfish desire every person has and seeing what happens when you give it a billion dollars. It's surreal what kinds of high school science projects that are getting cooked up now, take a look at longtermism or that fucked-up project where Jeffery Epstein wanted to seed the human race with this DNA. It would be funny if it wasn't for billionaires having the funds to actualize their own personal doomsday scenarios as they set the world on fire with climate change. Like the Rushkoff's article stated: "The Mindset requires an endgame."