When chaos calls
Bedlam abounds. Is now a good time to unplug and move to the woods?
Friday, March 27, 2009
Here is the good news: We are completely doomed.
Isn't that great? Isn't that reassuring? It damn well should be, because, in some form or another and since we were knee-high to a cave painting, the apocalypse has always, always been nigh
It is perhaps the single most wonderful and reliable aspect about being a tiny troubled biped on this tiny troubled speck of spinning space dust; depending on whom you listen to, depending on how dialed in you are to the various nefarious signs and conspiracy theories and reruns of "The Omen" on late-night cable, we are always on the verge of imminent and unstoppable doom. It's just a matter of which supremely peeved deity -- God? Nukes? Bees? Trees? Peanut butter? -- you believe is about to bring the hammer down.
If nothing else, this unfailing belief in our imminent demise makes us terribly consistent. And consistency, aside from being a nasty hobgoblin, also provides terrific comfort. And comfort, in times of chaos and imminent apocalypse, is always sort of nice. See how that works?
In the Bush Dark Times, the apocalypse took the form of various charming little munchkins, like the gay agenda, Buddha tattoos, nu-metal, female nipples, Bill O'Reilly's adorable "culture wars," gangsta rap, condoms, bad art, Muslim fanatics who want to confiscate your porn collection, stem cell research, Hillary Clinton and teenagers having lots of anal sex and calling it chastity. So cute!
But now, in the Obama Enlightenment, a very strange thing has occurred. It's as though Armageddon finally got a glimpse of itself in the mirror, saw what the GOP and Christian right had done to it and went, "Holy hell, who put these f--king clown shoes on me and cut my hair in a mullet and stamped this idiotic 'Left Behind' logo on my forehead?"
And then it went on a rampage.
Result: The apocalypse is no longer the illegible stick-figure cartoon Dubya liked to scribble on the bathtub wall while high on whippets and too many Ding-Dongs. Armageddon has taken on new shape and identity, ripped off its Disney costume to reveal a much darker and more sinister persona: global economic collapse, violent climate change, oceans in crisis, food shortages and water shortages and ice caps melting so quickly scientists are hauling life rafts to the research centers. Doom is now stripped down, battle scarred, global and mean.
Accordingly, many people are looking around in increasing panic, wondering, "Now? Is it now? Should I just chuck it all and unplug the iMac and quit updating my damnable Facebook status and move off the grid, somewhere with plenty of fresh water and lots of paranoia and free guns and no one will dare mess with my potato crops, what with all the barbed wire and trained attack dogs -- like, say northern Idaho or Canada or Afghanistan?"
Verily, every urban dweller I know has at least had the conversation, with varying degrees of seriousness. Given the massive layoffs and surging unemployment rates, what with all those fundamental, root-chakra domains -- food, water, shelter -- now kneeling before the gods of chaos, the general consensus seems to be that it might just be an ideal time to take the burned-out husk of your 401K and get the hell out before the water riots begin.
But really, how do you know? After all, it's just terribly easy to get lost in the maelstrom, to have little or no idea exactly how bad it really is out there in Bedlamville, simply because the various sources that are supposed to tell us just how awful it is -- that is, this very major media -- are themselves undergoing such a massive upheaval that it's all they (that is, we) can do to stay upright and spell their own names correctly in the obituaries, much less accurately report on Japan's breakdown or just how terrifying Eastern Europe is right now and what, exactly, that might mean for the price of your 50-pound bag of Mexican avocados from Costco.
It's easy to give in and let The Fear swallow you whole. After all, if the bitchy president of the EU says President Obama's wildly audacious master plan is a "road to hell," who are you to argue? If the experts say places like LA and Nevada are about to run out of water and start feeding on their young, what can you possibly do about it? If the punditry points out just how silly it is to be focusing on kittenish issues like the AIG scandal while "the tiger sinks its teeth into the world's neck," well, who are you not to take heed?
Here is your big picture, as wonderful and terrifying as ever: countless are the gleaming, once-thriving empires in world history, from Rome to Easter Island to innumerable Chinese dynasties to Circuit City, who've all managed to snuff themselves out via some untenable combination of greed and power and resource abuse and not giving a damn about consequences. There are few exceptions. But there are a thousand cautionary tales.
Which raises the biggest question of all, perhaps never to be truly answered until it's too late: Are we really on the cusp? Are we truly teetering on the edge of the Void? If we chant, "The sky is falling," frequently enough, isn't it bound to come true, eventually?
To which I say, why stop at paranoia? Why not reach a bit further, thicker, more sticky and radical, and really go for the gold ring of delicious evolutionary bliss?
Because it's certainly possible that even the masterfully calm and assured President Obama might be too late to stem the global hemorrhaging, and will instead serve as the steady, reassuring voice that guides us back not to stability and perspective and electric cars for all, but rather into the boats of light that will carry us to a new psychic dimension in about, say, three (2012) years (2012) from (2012) now.
What, too outlandish? Too ridiculous? Are you sure? Meet me at my secret cabin in the woods, and let's talk about it. Bring wine.
Thoughts about this column? E-mail Mark.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate.com. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing. To get on Mark's personal (i.e.; non-Chronicle) mailing list (appearances, books, readings, blogs, yoga and more), please click here and remove two more.