20 March 2009


I was regaled recently about the plight of society and its economic turpitude. Because of factors that have never before occurred in the history of societies [emphasis definitely not mine], we're surely on the road to a pre-industrial primitivism. My insistence that such worries are unfounded in historical example was met with, simply, disbelief. There was no common ground. What arguments are there against such a card house of conditionals that find destruction in every flawed system of human society? The polysci maven's response to the--obvious--impending doom was to search for ways to distance themselves from dependencies on the specialization that results from community. Learn to live off the land and you won't have to put up with allowing your tax dollars to be used or misused by atheists and the lazy.

I had always blamed this worldview on too much Ayn Rand and too much being a male. More seriously, I felt that it went back to the noble savage ideal and the belief that, somehow, society has corrupted the individual by making them dependent on others. However, I'm beginning to think that it's as much influenced by millenarian tendencies. There's an aching desire, when presented with complex systems beyond your control, that there must be a simpler way and a teardown is in order. In programming land, this leads to the inescapable desire to rewrite everything. In life, you yearn for revolution.

[ updated 31 Oct 2009 ]

io9 has an article on trends in the last 200 years of post-apocalyptic fiction. The author provides a graph of the relative importance of religious eschatology or post-nuclear wastelands or zombies. One comment suggests an alternate explanation for the desire for an apocalyptic tabula rasa: Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending traces the apocalypse - or end of history - as a basic western need through the beginning of its literature. I'm not doing justice to his thesis. But basically, he says we fear becoming insignificant in the infinite, and need an end point.

[ posted by sstrader on 20 March 2009 at 11:03:42 AM in Culture & Society | tagged io9 ]