Today is the last day on Earth, according to some New Age interpretation of the Mayan calendar.
This belief has caused endless suffering and useless expensive purchases by people trying to “beat the clock” and find somewhere safe to spend their last few hours. Cheap places have suddenly become outrageously expensive, because someone said “Hang out there!” during your final hours.
However, saying “Goodbye to Tomorrow” has a long history that goes beyond this moment in time. Humans are famous for planning the end of not only their own anticipated deaths, but because that is just too commonplace, they have to anticipate the death of everyone and everything around them.
The End of the World. Or more modestly put, The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI).
One psychologist got interested in one “Say Goodbye to Tomorrow” group, and actually hung out with them during their “final moments.” He wanted to know how they cognitively justified it, when the end of the world failed to materialize.
He reported that great anticipation happened during the moments ticking up to “the end.” Five minutes “after doomsday,” the euphoria of the group changed to anxiety. After several hours, when the followers began to look doubtfully at their leader, he enthusiastically announced “We’ve done it!”
In a twist of mental gymnastics, he proclaimed that given his followers’ prayers and preparations, they had successfully “stopped” the end! But now he was in a bit of a dilemma: If the whole raison d’etre of the group was the “end,” he needed another “end,” or what’s the point?
What I’m noticing is a disturbing trend that mimics this same pattern. Saying “We’re screwed!” is a good start when you are trying to build enthusiasm, but not quite as good as “We’re screwed next Tuesday!” When next Tuesday comes, and the “screwing” didn’t happen on cue, what do you do to maintain your credibility?
Again and again over the years, I’ve noticed that people have taken dramatic actions in anticipation of this or that “end.” For some, it is the end of civilization. For others, it is “goodbye to the global economic system.” For still others, it is the end of the Earth as a livable planet. For these intelligent, sincere individuals, their goal, despite their critics, isn’t making a fast buck. Most of them make no or little money on their predictions. They really believe in what they are predicting. So, to live in congruency, they pack up, sell off, and move to some more “sustainable” or “safe” location, and try in earnest to live in keeping with their anticipated tomorrow. They “do it anyway” as a friend of Sharon Astyk says.
But it causes some of them tremendous social hardship.
Nostalgia for the Present
For some, they start to miss their “old life,” that “yesterday” that they abandoned with conviction. For most living in this “yesterday,” they weren’t nearly as wastefully as others. They were already living lean, using a fraction of resources compared to the average person in Western Civilization. And they, themselves, are products of this Civilization they’ve come to critique. They are writers, intellectuals, scientists, and professionals. They often leave culturally rich environs to move to remote locations known for, well, known for nothing in particular that most people care very much about. Let’s call that location “Rural Nowhere.”
Then they wait. And wait. And wait.
Rural Nowhere is not noted for great employment opportunities. They’ve often given up their jobs and their incomes as a matter of conviction and necessity. No matter how long they anticipated their resources to last, as the months and years tick on, they see the bank accounts dwindling. Some have sold their homes, bought an RV, and drove around believing the “end of oil” is upon us. (Yes, I know…)
Plus, if they left an intellectually alive place for Rural Nowhere, they get lonely. They get resentful. They start to look back at all of their colleagues and neighbors, the “Sheeple,” that continue to rake in decent salaries and take in decent cinema, without driving a few hours. They feel increasing disdain and then increasing hostility.
If they confidently provided a timeline, their families begin to stare at them with their own impatient brand of “Sooooo?” Few of us would move on the promise that “the end of tomorrow” will happen in 50 years. Most of us drag our feet at dramatic lifestyle change if doom is expected in over 5 years. So many are stuck with an accelerating Doomline, and a stubbornly “Todaylike” tomorrow.
What happens to your marriage, when you took her out to Rural Nowhere, and you have day after day of Todaylike tomorrows? What happens when Tomorrow stubbornly refuses to leave?
The pressure is enormous.
As the clock continues to build, not only must Tomorrow be something that is going, it starts to mutate. Despite the hardship, Today has got to go.
It is one thing to be a Panglossian, who believes that nothing in the world could possibly go wrong. Now, however, what about those who continue to believe in Tomorrow? They are viewed in the worst possible light. You want children? You’re pregnant? Those bearing children become “breeders” who should be shunned. You bought a new car, or iphone? You are killing off the ecosystem.
3-E Hair Shirts
But caution is in order, because it is really very difficult to live purely, even in Rural Nowhere. To resolve the hypocrisy, some proclaim “I won’t change, it is the corporations that need to change!” They say their contribution to Demise is hardly significant. So they go on living like they did yesterday, while predicting the end of tomorrow. The rest of us us still secretly driving to buy take-out, and are ashamed of ourselves or embarrassed when we’re “caught.”
We find ourselves lusting for that “really cool” gadget, then hating ourselves. In an attempt to purify ourselves, no different than the saints who wore hair shirts or whipped themselves into trances to rid themselves of impure thoughts, these modern day Doomers also look for relief.
As if I haven’t created enough enemies in our community at this point, allow me to push forward.
You either support our movement, or you take your place of shame with the Sheeple and be shunned…
Nudging Along the End of Today
If civilization is going to fall, and isn’t falling fast enough, it should now be nudged along.
The solution is also an old one.
A movement is gaining popularity whereby this nudging has taken on violent overtones. The narrative is outlined in the starkest terms: If you love the planet, there is only one recourse to those who are killing it. You are either with us, or against us. You either support our movement, or you take your place of shame with the Sheeple and be shunned.
Most often, of course, history has taught us that within these movements, there appears to be two classes of people: The Leaders and the Followers. The Leaders are often most valuable for continuing to do what they have been doing all along: Thinking. Writing. Lecturing. Pontificating. They are justified in any eco-transgressions because, after all, they are the Leaders, and are attempting to gather more Followers to speed up The End of Tomorrow.
The Followers also appear to be remarkably similar over the years. They are usually much younger than the Leaders. They have far fewer resources and often live lives much closer to “The End of Tomorrow” than the Leaders do. They are often directly impacted by the worst parts of today, whether this is the crappy jobs during the rise of the industrial empire, or crippling student loans today. But whether we are talking about the turn of the century or today, the role of the Followers are the same: they are the handmaidens, the expendables. They read the call to action and are ready to act. They will engage in behaviors that cause them to either die or be put in cages for a very, very long time.
Sometimes we’ve learned, decades later, that the provocateurs were actually agents of the government who were seeking to discredit a popular movement that was gaining power. They were “plants” who said: “We have to do this!” and yet, when everyone was imprisoned or dead, these “Leaders” safely vanished. Popular movements become “unpopular” when associated with “senseless” acts violence.
Anyone who carefully studies human history will notice this trend. And they will notice another mantra: “Things have never been as bad as they are today.” And usually they are right. And dramatic actions are called for when we are talking about the End of the World.
They will also notice how slow the progress of change is, and how unpopular ideas seem to almost overnight, become popular ideas. And despite how dire things are, no matter how bad today is, compared to all the badness of yesterday, remarkably, “today” continued to seamlessly flow into “tomorrow,” against all the odds. And those who wrote the Doomline re-write the predictions, and no one seems particularly interested in the miscalculation.
Now I hate to have to be the one to write any of this. What I’m saying is hardly revolutionary or new. In fact, what I’m saying is easily what the most conservative endorsers of Today would say in response to social critics. I’ve hardly been a cheerleader of Today, and don’t imagine Tomorrow will be swell, either.
But I care about young people, and I care about their passion and their enthusiasm. And while I’m terrified of the future, too, I can’t imagine how violence that will mostly impact the poor and working classes will lead to a healthier planet. I don’t see how spending decades of your life behind bars (“in a cage”) will somehow make the world a safer place for dying species.
And while most of these Thought Leaders proclaim how delighted they’d be to give their own lives for the future of a healthy planet, they live on.
They prep on.
They pontificate on.
And they tell us over and over that if we don’t “do something,” something increasingly dramatic as their Doomlines creep forward, we won’t have Tomorrow.
So for those who believe that Today is the last day on Earth I say:
”So long, it’s been good to know you.”
For the rest of us, let’s continue to work for change, with the utmost of care, and always anticipate that Tomorrow MIGHT come.