Understanding the Purpose
Occasionally after a period of frustration on how to address a particular issue an article fortuitously appears that opens the doors of enlightenment. Just such an article, titled “The luxury of apocalypticism” recently bubbled to the top of my reading. The following excerpt beautifully captures one key dimension of this behavior by our elite “betters.”
Here, we cut to the heart of the apocalyptic mindset of the modern elites. Their dread over natural calamities or novel new illnesses is not driven by the actual facts about these things, far less by the desire to overcome them through the deployment of human expertise and scientific discovery. Rather, it speaks to their pre-existing moral disorientation, their deep loss of faith in the human project itself. It is their downbeat cultural convictions that draws them to apocalypticism as surely as a light draws in moths. In her essay on the AIDS panic of the late 1980s, when that sexually transmitted disease was likewise imagined as a portent of civiliational doom, Susan Sontag talked about the West’s widespread ‘sense of cultural distress or failure’ that leads it to search incessantly for an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ and for ‘fantasies of doom’. There is a ‘striking readiness of so many to envisage the most far-reaching of catastrophes’, she wrote. It wasn’t so much ‘Apocalypse Now’, said Sontag, as ‘Apocalypse From Now On’.
How perspicacious that was. From AIDS to climate change, from swine flu to Covid-19, it has been one apocalyptic scenario after another. The irony is that the elites who readily envisage catastrophe think they are showing how seriously they take genuine social and medical challenges, such as Covid-19. In truth, they demonstrate the opposite. They confirm that they have absolved themselves of the reason and focus required for confronting threats to our society. It isn’t their apocalypticism that captures the human urge to solve genuine problems – it is our anti-apocalypticism, our calmness, our insistence that resources and attention be devoted to genuine challenges without disrupting people’s lives or the economic health of our societies.
‘I want you to panic’, they say. But we don’t. And we shouldn’t. Apocalypticism is a luxury of the new elites for whom crises are often little more than opportunities for the expression of their decadent disdain for modern society. To the rest of us, apocalypticism is a profound problem. It threatens to spread fear in our communities, it causes us to lose our jobs, it mitigates against economic growth, and it harms democracy itself. Resisting the apocalypticism of the comfortable doom-mongers who rule over us is unquestionably the first step to challenging Covid-19 and preserving society for the decades after this illness has wreaked its disgraceful impact.
But even this excellent passage doesn’t expose the full story. For while it explains the psychological underpinnings of this behavior it doesn’t address the purpose. This purpose is hinted at by the first sentence in this same excellent article.
People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years.
Panicked humans are far more susceptible to suggestion and manipulation then are calm humans. However, if humans can be panicked as a mob the effect is multiplied by orders of magnitude. Thus, if you are attempting to market ideologies that have been demonstrated by any rational analysis to be utter failures or even genocidal, then your best hope for success is by inducing the irrationality associated with a panicked mob.
That they have thus far failed to achieve this end (but the COVID-19 hysteria may break this string of failures) has left our “elites” in a state of psychological degradation that undermines all claim to their supposed status. Returning one last time to the article.
According to the new elites, their apocalypticism is normal, while our calm democratic commitment to a political project, such as … our desire to treat pollution as a practical problem rather than as a swirling, cloudy hint of nature’s coming fury with man’s hubris and destructiveness, is mad, deranged, in need of treatment.
Yes, our levelheadedness and calm prevents them from rushing us over the cliff into the abyss of their proto-totalitarian rule. The punishment will continue until we comply, or perhaps until we throw them out from their positions of undeserved power.