Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Apocalypse as Pornography

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One of the major questions we’ve been wrestling with over in the culturemonkey discussion group about futurity is the question of whether people consumer apocalyptic fantasy because they fear it or because they long for it. (And of course there’s no easy answer to this question— we recoil in fear from apocalypse because we’re afraid it’s what we really want, just as the little pessimist inside all of us is eager for the inevitable disaster to just hurry up and get it over with, and so on, spiraling down and down the psychoanalytic rabbit hole. Both/and.) Just to throw fuel on this fire, a pair of Times articles out yesterday and today help shine light on why it is that end-the-world fantasy (Children of Men, Cloverfield, climate-related apocalypse, Life Without People on the Discovery Channel just this week) is such a commercially vibrant field right now:

‘Voters Show Darker Mood Than in 2000’

While not universal, that tone pervaded dozens of interviews conducted over the last week with Americans of all political stripes in 8 of the 24 states that hold primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5, as well as with historians, elected officials, political strategists and poll takers. As the candidates fan out to New York and California and here to the heartland, they are confronting an electorate that is deeply unsettled about the United States’ place in the world and its ability to control its own destiny.

and probably quicker to the point in terms of locating the likely origin for this new pessimism:

‘Worries That the Good Times Were Mostly a Mirage’

But it’s hard not to believe that the economy will pay a price for the speculative binge of the last two decades, either by going through a tough recession or an extended period of disappointing growth. As is already happening, banks will become less willing to lend money, households will become less willing to spend money they don’t have and investors will become more alert to risk.

Welcome to the new moderation.

I love how mere “moderation” is figured in and of itself as a kind of disaster.

Still, I can’t ignore this link from Bldgblog which Ryan left in the culturemonkey comments, which shoots past mere longing for the end of the world to bring us to a very Ballardian understanding of apocalypse as a kind of pornography—and the problems this death drive causes when you’re trying to motivate people to change the way they live:

As it is, we’re being told that we should worry about climate change… because it resembles one of the most exciting tropical adventures ever to befall the human race.

Who’s going to get upset about that?

Needless to say, I think this is an exceptionally good point.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 24, 2008 at 2:55 pm

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