Apoplectic Apocalypse

So this is a "non-fiction" article (insomuch as is possible, given the topic, apocalypses) I wrote for our intra-hostel creative writing event. We placed 2nd, so I presume it had a non-negative contribution towards that result. I would like to point out at the offset that I am not a proponent of antiestablishmentarianism 1, and my own views on society are relatively over-optimistic. I will probably write about them some time.

Also, to give credit where it is due, many of the arguments and opinions voiced in this article have been flavoured by Steven Erikson's excellent discourse on the subject, published in his popular fiction series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen". The series is perhaps the best I've read, but at times it does feel that he's been laying it a bit thick, to say the least. Without further ado, The Apoplectic Apocalypse.

Apoplectic Apocalypse

What the world secretly needs, but just isn't getting.

"This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper." -- T.S. Elliot

And that is the damnedest shame. The human spirit is, at the very least, tenacious; we persevere one sudden tragedy after another. However, to be slowly dragged through sheer inhumanity exacts an irrecoverable toll on us, breaking our souls in a most pitiable manner. From a personal level to a society, we have been connived into believing the possibility of absolution is delusional, that the very topic of apocalypse has become passe. But, for centuries, across the world, we have held our collective breaths for the sudden swing of hard justice to break through the layers of human detritus built over at least three millennia, and restore balance. Have we become so cynical to eschew this dream?

The notion of apocalypse, derived from the Greek `apokalupsis' meaning unveiling or revelation, appears in just about every religion, from Norse mythology, to Hinduism to Christianity and Islam. A common theme coursing through each is the image of humanity's ultimate degradation to a society wherein, to quote the Greeks, "modesty, truth, and faith leave the earth, and in their place come tricks, plots, traps, violence, and unbridled love of profit", and an appropriate redemption from this depravity.The Greeks call our age of debauchery the Iron Age; ironically, the god Zeus is prevented from destroying our age because his power has diminished due to lack of belief. Hindus believe in a more cyclical reality, wherein Lord Shiva is said to destroy the entire universe only recreate it, returning it to the golden era of "Satya-yuga".

In the Abrahamic religions, apocalypse is a day of judgement. There will be Rapture (though, alas, that has purportedly passed), wherein all men will be met "perfect justice" and appropriately resurrected and sent to heaven or hell. Similarly, Islam has Qiyamah, promising a paradise with rivers, palaces and gardens to the righteous, and pain, shame and ignominy to the evil. Judaism, on the other hand, teaches in the coming of a Messiah, a mortal man under whose leadership, "evil and tyranny will not be able to stand [...]". The apocalypse promises that no matter how unfair our mortal lives have been, justice will be served, and the good in man will be rewarded.

The curse of civilisation has ever been to trap men, to create towers of hierarchy, justifying the deplorable conditions of men for the luxuries of others. From the monarchies of the past, to the colonialisation of the 18th century, and even in today's sheer inequalities, there is imbalance, though we have been dulled to ignore the signs. Our democracies, instead of feeding off their own people (of course, that happens too), externalise the damage to countries in Africa and South America. The sequence of social revolutions over the last two centuries, be it the October Revolution heralding Communism as a vehicle for social equality or the Industrial revolution preaching the virtues of capitalism, have but transferred control from one body to another. An apocalypse is needed to break this cycle, and return us to an age not unlike the Golden Age of the Greeks, where "there was no war among men, for they were ruled by a high deity. There were no states or families; and since they all came to life coming out of the earth and with no memory of their previous lives, they did not possess wives nor did they have any children."

In today's climate, one needn't describe our sensitive dependence upon wood, coal and oil, resources fast being depleted as we leach the earth's every resource. Humanity as we know it is flying headlong down a path we can not naturally turn back from, appealing once again to the apocalypse to let us restart, and rebuild our world the right way. Mythology and religion cite no less; Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, predicts the drowning the world followed by the world resurfacing, fertile once again, with just two human survivors left to repopulate the world. The Jewish Messiah is expected to "[...] take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful."

Regardless of your theism, or indeed atheism, it is clear that the promise of justice, of being held accountable, is an integral aspect of mankind's moral decisions. We hold on to morality as our respective culture defines, being told that doing otherwise will bring upon us sure, cold and hard justice. Today, we have lost the fear of god, long regarded a virtue, and indeed lost faith in universal justice. The prophecies that once conveniently projected judgement day far into the future have now arrived; today's generation will not accept another eon before the arrival of justice. There can be no more valid reason to start an apocalypse than to return to people their faith in their morality, in humanity and in nature. We are owed a balancing of scales, and if the job must be done, we must do it.

"That's where all of us are standing now, he thought. On the fat kindling of past sins." -- Walter M. Miller Jr.

  1. I will forever regret not using this succulent word in the essay.