Postmodern Apocalypse

by Joseph Matheny on September 14, 2007

Postmodern Apocalypse:

Another look at ‘Marketing The Apocalypse.’

James Curcio

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2012 is a meme on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days.

An an example, Daniel Pinchbeck just launched the site “Postmodern Times,” which is:

…a series of short animated films presenting new ideas about global consciousness and techniques for social and ecological transformation. Our first episode, “Toward 2012″, introduces the project, explaining concepts from the best-selling book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006) by Daniel Pinchbeck, in the author’s own voice. Future segments will focus on shamanism, sustainability, alternative energy systems, the Mayan Calendar, quantum physics and synchronicity, human sexuality, and a host of other subjects.

This explosion, of course, is not restricted merely to Pinchbeck, though he seems to have positioned himself well atop the wave. For better or worse, it is a cultural movement, and it is happening now.

Not all of the conjecture has such a pleasant aftertaste, either. Speaking of waves, it’s no surprise really that in the wake of disasters like the 2004 tsunami in the Indian ocean and Katrina, and threats of even more massive ones in the form of the Yellowstone volcano, meteor strikes, or global warming, the media has discovered a big business.
The Discovery channel has become the Disaster channel.

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Perhaps it’s a result of the Armageddon obsession, as Wes Unruh explored in his article Marketing The Apocalypse. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we really are approaching an unprecedented tipping point of some kind, or maybe the Mayan’s really were onto something with their OCD fixation on the heavens.

This position creates something of a slippery slope- as we attempt to understand and mythologize the position we are in as individuals and as a species, we could easily be seen as marketing moguls, simply trying to capitalize on the growing fervor. Certainly, this is a big part of how the News media machine works, and it is increasingly easy to point the finger on this account since proposed solutions to these problems all seem comically vague or untenable.

However, there is a difference between painting a picture for the sake of enacting what you see as a positive change, and merely capitalizing on fear. I guess it comes down to questions of context and intent: do you believe that we are approaching a precipice, or not? Do you believe that your actions can effect the course of world history, in a small or large way? Do you believe that argument and awareness of these issues will actually lead to anything?

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Personally, I am a writer of fiction. In 2003, when I put together a “world development team” in upstate NY to develop a future world history and cosmology for use in projects such as Fas Ferox and Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, I was simply asking: what theories are out there that could support the preconceived storyline?

I talked to climatologists, artists, scientists, occultists and crackpots alike- but the focus was always on conforming feasible theories into a fictional framework so as to build a world and tell a story. (Or series of stories.) The idea of partial apocalypse is interesting in a fictional framework because whenever the slate is wiped partially clean, there is an immense opportunity for something different to appear. This is true whether we’re talking about the extinction of the dinosaurs and rise of the mammals, or the collapse of the Roman Empire. It is a visually and conceptually ripe climate as well, and has supported ‘classic’ genre movies such as Mad Max, as well as the upcoming zombie adaptation Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

It would same that the framework is a bit different when you are approaching these issues as a writer of non-fiction, or as an activist.

These issues create such a political, cultural hotbed that for non-specialists it seems we are living more in a world of interpretive fiction than facts. (Compare this story on Global Warming, and this one. Then again either way, hey, maybe it’ll be good for shipping… that is, if that isn’t a fiction as well.) The leap between a constellation of potentially unrelated facts and a definitive theory is of course the issue, as it always is in such matters.

This is, and always has been, a serious issue across the board- whether we are talking about psychology, philosophy, or climatology. We interpret facts based on our preconceptions. This doesn’t mean that a good scientist will spin fiction out of fact, but it does point to a sentiment expressed by Frederich Nietzsche: “There are no facts, only interpretations.” This is not to say that there is no such thing as fact, instead, to borrow another observation from Nietzsche: “‘Completely true to nature!’ – what a lie: / How could nature ever be constrained into a picture? / The smallest bit of nature is infinite! / And so he paints what he likes about it. / And what does he like? He likes what he can paint!”

Perhaps there isn’t much of a difference, after all.

{ 4 comments }

Uncle Humpasaur September 15, 2007 at 2:54 am

For any entrepreneurs looking to position themselves at the top of the next wave, buff up on your astronomy and get familiar with “2002 NT7,” a “near-earth object” which NASA says will smash into the Earth on February 1, 2019.

In fact, there’s already a site for it…maybe it’s too late to get in on the ground floor.

Good synopsis, though, this was clear writing and I appreciate it.

Flight September 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Ya know, I’m studying ancient Mesoamerica in school and all that, and they were kind of a melodramatic lot. The Aztec believed they were in the Fifth and final age, and that only a steady stream of human sacrifices could keep the sun rising. Every 52 years the world teetered on oblivion as the calendar ended, and they had better make a bunch of sacrifices and rebuild the temples and kiss a lot of divine ass to survive.

On the one hand, I’m skeptical that their calendar (or the Mayan) is any more special than ours, and if we’re not dead from Y2k why should this matter?

But on the other hand, its a great way for people to break out of their shells a bit. Like Mardi Gras, except with less breasts and more explosions.

jamescurcio September 17, 2007 at 6:42 pm

I’d prefer the breasts. That’s just me of course.

Though maybe not so much the frat-boy style “SHOW ME YOUR TITS.”

Chris September 25, 2007 at 8:35 pm

So how will WE write it? How shall it read when we look back on December 21, 2012? We certainly have the elements in place to destroy ourselves. The planet has experienced cataclysmic events in its history – polar shifts, ice ages, etc. No one really knows. What the Mayan’s meant with their End-Count calendar will always be up for speculation. It fires the imagination, for sure. SOooo let’s write it like we want it. That is what Chris Fenwick did in the #1 Visionary Novel: “the 100th human.” You choose…

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