The End is Nigh… or is it?

2011-01-19 13:10
Friday's Cape Times newspaper headlines sounded like either a flashback to the times of Noah, or something straight from a futuristic science fiction movie.

Flooding All Over the World
Upington braces for deluge… 375 dead in Brazil… 325 000 homeless in Sri Lanka…. Australia counts the cost….

Are we heading for a showdown with history? Is the end of our civilization an inescapable fact? Is it, or is it not, too late to reverse the trend of escalating natural disasters supposedly triggered by global warming and other man-made factors? And what about war, new plagues, intolerance and fundamentalism?  Will tomorrow's headlines be even more apocalyptic? Is this just the beginning of the end?

There seem to be two trains of thought on this. One group of people believes in the victory of mind over matter, science over superstition, individualism over barbarism, courage over fear. I admit that I tend to side with this group most of the time. Things cannot forever fall apart, the centre must somehow hold. Chaos and uncertainty have always been the doorways to creativity. A single point of destruction, singularity of horror, a final orgy of blood and gore is simply too much for the civilised mind to bear.  

Then there are those who emphatically believe that we are on a road to nowhere, a downhill curve, a cataclysmic voyage to the end. People of greatly disparate belief systems agree on this fact. New Agers quote the Maya calendar. Bible-punchers fervently believe that the Antichrist, the rapture and the Second Coming are at hand, more or less in that order.

For people bent on the destruction of the entire planet, their ideological parameters are surprisingly neat. Instead of fearing the end, they are perverse enough to take solace from it. Every new headline of disaster confirms their expectations of doom. While countless millions die from floods, fires, mud slides, hurricanes, plagues, earthquakes and other mishaps, these people sleep securely in their beds, within reach of their holy books, their TVs and their remote controls.

Aliens and angels

They are safe, because their souls are saved, their chakras clean, their direct line with God or the Universe remarkably intact. Who needs rational thought when you've got aliens and angels batting for you?

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I am skeptical about this doomsday alternative. I am skeptical because we have had a similar choice of alternatives in our own country, with similarly held simplistic views, none of which came true.   

For years, both white and black South Africans believed that our country is rapidly approaching an imminent deadline of destruction. It seemed as if revolution and civil war were just around the corner. Some feared this ending, others hoped for it.

But what have we now? All those doomsday scenarios are long past their sell-by date, and yet we're still fumbling around in haphazard mediocrity. We have our Madibas, our Malemas, our heroes and our villains. Corruption is as rife as in the Old South Africa. Celebrities are still marrying trophy wives, subsequently cheating on them and getting divorced.

Human nature hasn't changed. If that sounds depressing – and it certainly is – we can at least take heart from the simple inescapable fact that we are still here; as clueless, as boring and crazy as we always have been. Neither the idealistic vision of the rainbow nation or the pessimistic expectation of total anarchy have proved to be anything more than mere mirages of our collective subconscious!

The end is nigh… maybe. It depends. Whatever.  


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