Sunday reads: The politics of apocalypse
The world didn't end and it's always ending
The world was always going to end, or so I was told sitting in those cheaply padded polyester chairs in the brown and orange churches of my youth.
Peace in the Middle East, facilitated by President Clinton, would presage war, the pastor told us in the mid-90s.
As I wrote in an essay in 2020, the signs and wonders of the end were always around me growing up.
Soon the temple would be rebuilt in Jerusalem and then the world would end. My dad showed us how Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name worked out in numerology to 666 — the mark of the beast. There would be an atomic world war. Yasser Arafat would be murdered.
The first news story I saw on the television my parents kept in the closet was in 1993, when the Waco compound was on fire, not far from where I lived in Dallas. The sound was muted, so I didn’t hear the screams, the helicopters, or the bullets. I didn’t need to. At church the next day, we were told this too was a sign. The government was coming for us, the righteous.
The world did not end. But it’s also ended millions of times since then.
When you believe the world is ending you are more careless with it and its inhabitants. When you ascribe to a politics of apocalypse, you are a fatalist.
Once a farmer I was interviewing for a story told me, “Yes, I believe in climate change, but that’s just part of the world ending. Nothing I can do to stop it.”
I think about that often. The shrugging nature of his acceptance of the end. Not his end, but the end for someone else. But in a way, he hastens an end he cannot see. Farmers are at higher risk of contracting cancers. These are quiet signs and signifiers of an end. They are easier to ignore.
When your politics are based on a metaphor it’s hard to see the reality of the harm.
But worlds are always ending. Apocalypse is always with us.
A human dies and an entire universe collapses.