May 23, 2020

THE MORE INSIGNIFICANT ONE FEELS ONSELF... (profanity alert):

The narcissism of apocalyptic thinking: A hilarious new book shows how the expectation of catastrophe is as much fantasy as fear (SAM LEITH, April 14, 2020, Unherd)

The fine, well-written, and fiercely entertaining book in which he explores his interest in all things apocalyptic is in some ways, as that little exchange suggests, a nonfiction novel in which O'Connell appears as an essentially comic protagonist.

But it's also a serious, or semi-serious, piece of reportage -- in which O'Connell variously meets the vendors of mid-range apocalypse real-estate (a guy selling decommissioned concrete weapons bunkers in a vast ranch in South Dakota); investigates the tech billionaires planning, when the Big One arrives, to do a bunk to New Zealand to set up an Ayn-Rand-style post-democratic society; meets the Elon Musk fanboys (they are usually boys) who think the human race's best chance of survival is colonising Mars; spends 24 hours communing with nature among pessimistic ecologists in the Scottish highlands; and takes a package tour of Chernobyl.


And it's an essay, in which he investigates his own phobias and Left-liberal anxieties, and his sense of complicity and hypocrisy. He brings the findings of his reporting and reading -- everyone from Hannah Arendt and Schopenhauer to Dr Seuss (there's a fine and feeling mini-essay on The Lorax) -- to interrogate the meaning of the apocalypse.

As he argues early on -- contemplating the culture of "preppers" who fantasise about taking to the woods with a "bug-out bag" when SHTF (s[***] hits the fan) -- the expectation of catastrophe is as much fantasy as fear. And it is ideological: fantasies of self-reliance after the breakdown of society play as much into myths of the American past as visions of its future. Preppers fetishise a notion of frontier masculinity in which the white prepper, a Mad Max Davy Crockett, is freed from the reciprocal obligations of "civilisation" to fend for himself.


...the greater one's insistence that their time is unique, rather than mundane. Thus both Replacement theory and Climate hysteria.

Posted by at May 23, 2020 8:01 AM

  

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