By Ranbir Singh
(CHAKRA) Apocalypse is big business. There is nothing like a disaster film to get the cinema ticket sales increased and it does not even need to be in 3D. Disease, war, carnage, anything that makes our pleasant surroundings fall apart seems to get us addicted. It is as if we are not just confronting our worst fears but wanting to live them. So its not surprising that as 2012 draws close it also creates a paranoia revolving around a widespread belief based on a Mayan prophecy that predicts the final end of the world .
David Icke is doing very well as he draws in the crowds who listen avidly to how the alien lizard race of Illumunati rule the planet. Doomsday cults abound. Sometimes we encounter this world of messianic soothsayers as it impinges into our reality. The classic case in point would be Jehovah’s Witnesses who always start the monologue with how bad the world is and in order to be saved one needs to repent and accept their point of view before it is too late. In fact for this cult then end of the world has always been too late as their previous prophecies about the world ending have never materialised otherwise of course you would not be reading this.
Other Christian sects are not as fussy about blood transfusions but are equally glad to take direct debits, cash and all types of credit cards. After all as film directors have always known, there is nothing like a good apocalypse to get the money rolling in. But just in case this is not quite the End Time as predicted in the Book of Revelation, such splendid specimens of humanity such as Pat Robertson and Benny Hinn need to keep their multi-billion dollar business empires afloat complete with private jets and designer suits as they leech off their desperate, lonely and naïve subjects.
It is often hard to see whether pictures of starving and diseased Third World children are better at keeping Christian fundamentalist televangelists on fat cat CEO salaries during a time of economic decline than the constant messages of impending doom which never seem to negatively impact the healthy bulging wallets of designer preachers such as Benny Hinn. That is why along with the messages of the world ending in the next five minutes the Jehovah’s Witnesses and an assortment of other such dogmatic cults soon try and wipe as much from your savings as doorstep vacuum cleaner salesmen forcing over priced consumer goods down the unsuspecting throats of anyone unfortunate enough to encounter such human debris.
But of course in their defence they are simply trying to make a living with pressure from cold-hearted managers who need their profit to stay commercially viable. It is a bit different when the salesmen claim to be employed by a male chauvinistic entity who is basically a demiurge but which we mostly know goes by the name of ‘God’. Then it is not just a matter of life and death, but life after death.
However as this broken promise is unlikely to ever cause civil litigation under consumer laws designed to prevent misrepresentation of goods and services, the divine salesmen can amass huge fortunes without incurring the usual inconvenient questions that this entails. Now if this was just a case of a few harmless crackpots there would be little to worry about. Of course when they manifest in a death craze as with the mass suicide in Guyana by the followers of Jim Jones in 1978 we tend to get a little more nervous. What if the mentality which drives Icke and especially Jones was mainstream?
But that is just the point. It is mainstream. Millenarian, eschatological and apocalyptic scenarios are sewn into the very fabric of western culture. They are the flip side of utopianism which always ends up as dystopia when put into practice. This is normally relegated to the sphere of science fiction. HG Wells’ ‘Time Machine’ reflected class differences between the affluent elite and the proletariat masses who served them. ‘ Logan ’s Run’ was written at a time of youthful rebellion and the unshackling of social norms. In ‘I am Legend’ and ’28 Days Later’ we see how our cities and entire social structure will crumble in the wake of a modern plague.
These are merely manifestations of a Christian psyche and its legacy. It is no surprise then that in America , the only western country where Christianity not only flourishes as a majority practised faith (as opposed to being just some sort of legacy), these apocalyptic scenarios remain more clearly rooted to their religious underpinnings.
The election of George Bush Jr brought forth the religious right into organs of government, people who actually welcomed the 9/11 attacks because it was somehow proof of the End Times, that the Day of Judgement was near and that Christ was returning. The war in Iraq was openly said to be fighting Satan.
While few conservative commentators went as far as Ann Coulter by arguing that the leaders of such states should be killed and their inhabitants converted to Christianity, it was disturbing to say the least to have the sovereign head of the world’s most powerful state claiming that he was in regular communication with the Supreme Being and Creator of the universe. In fact this god apparently told Bush to invade Iraq .
It was a shame that he could not have told the same president to look after the predominantly black victims of Hurricane Katrina, or provide adequate medical coverage for the forty million Americans whose poverty equates with the lack of health insurance.
The Bush administration was saturated with the Christian Right and their doomsday mentality. This could hardly bode well for healthy democracy and was evidently not very good for shaky markets based on ever growing mountains of consumer debt. When the bubble burst it only helped those apocalyptic pastors with their preaching of the world ending. It was as if by the law of attraction they were doing they damned hardest to damn all humanity so that Christ could return and take his elect chosen few into heaven while the rest of us were left to wallow in the nightmare world which followed.
Why has ‘Walking Dead’ been such a hit? Because it taps into a deeply programmed psyche that sees the end of civilisation and humanity as somehow predestined to come about. Are we not all zombies now, drifting aimlessly like mindless automata, ready to lap up whatever messianic political leaders and preachers feed to us? Critical thinking is not encouraged in such a claustrophobic environment. Who needs to think when it is all going to disappear anyway?
The same mentality drives Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Shia Islam sees the end of history as being a time of peace ushered in by the return of the hidden Imam, the messiah or Mahdi, who will fill the world with justice and tranquillity. But just to help this and also as a backup plan, Iran ’s president has also decided to acquire thermo-nuclear warheads.
The American rejection of the Kyoto Protocol is often seen as the arrogance of a powerful nation which does not want to put its share into helping reduce carbon emissions. Indeed any talk of environmentalism is dismissed as a left-wing plot, ignoring how China presently continues the communist legacy of having command economies that pollute, degrade the natural environment and poison millions of human beings with their lack of effective controls of industrial waste and output.
China may not be a democracy but it is certainly a leading ‘smogocracy’. But then this does not worry those millions of American evangelical Christians who think that the worse things get the better it is considering it tallies with the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation.
It is more than just a sick joke that people in the most advanced civilisation on the planet would reject practical steps at improvement because of some words written in the Roman empire in the first century. But then again these people believe that they will be raptured into heaven leaving the rest of us to face the wrath of Satan. Such a mentality does not auger well to solve the pressing environmental issues facing all of humanity, as demographics, scarce natural resources, depletion of fossil fuels and the breakdown of the world’s financial systems which affect us all and are only set to get worse.
Recently the Mayan prophecy about the end of the world has been re-examined. It speaks of not the end of the world per se, but the end of an era. After all how do we judge what is civilisation? Christianity gave us a teleological view of history, that the future must always be progress. That sat with the idea that it was also heading to the apocalypse.
But ancient cultures did not hold to this view. History was cyclical The Greeks saw the golden age as in the past until Pandora’s box was opened. Hindus have kept this ancient world view and not just of humanity but the universe. Lakshmi massages Vishnu’s feet as he lies on the serpent Shesha which in turn floats on the cosmic ocean. Destruction of the universe is followed by regeneration. Could 2012 be the beginning of the end of the age of greed, avarice and envy ?
Only time will tell but meanwhile humanity has forgotten its spiritual values, and now Mother Earth is only worshipped purely for her minerals for further exploitation. We are out of synch with the natural environment lost in a cosmic imbalance.
Religious ideals have become self-serving cults because even supposedly secular ideas of Jacobinism, revolution, communism, Nazism, liberalism, the free market and neo-conservatism have kept the millenarian and even apocalyptic scenarios of the Christian culture from which they sprang, despite their claims to be rational and scientific. Despite being secular they require blind ‘faith’ even when they fall apart in the face of war, financial meltdown and climatic catastrophe. But then such dark and gothic futures are welcomed for any mindset with is pre-programmed with two thousand years of expecting imminent destruction.
Hindu cosmology however realises that we are part of the natural order, and not apart from it. Maybe 2012 will mark the end of history being interpreted by teleological ideologies, and the rediscovery and renaissance of it being seen as a series of yugas or cycles. By realising that we will be able to reposition our focus on what is civilisation. Money, fame and power are merely transient. Western civilisation has made incredible advances that were once the stuff of miracles and myth. Life expectancy has increased, stable societies have been created, technology has developed as never before, human rights is at least theoretically sacrosanct, slavery is no longer an accepted social norm. But along with this there is a dark side to progress.
Attempts at utopia have only created dystopias of genocide, slave labour camps, massive socio-economic divides and societies which are literally falling apart. Mass murder has occurred as never before. The very social fabric which once held through wars and plagues is falling apart in seemingly prosperous and stable civilisations. Secular ideologies which have tried to replace religion have either become mere ‘faiths’ themselves or bought back religious forms in the most grotesque unspiritual formats.
The only reason why Hindu civilisation has survived through all this, and that barely, is because it has kept the essential spiritual format alive. As that best thinkers try and work out how to harmonise various competing elements which make up not just humanity but the cosmic and order, Hinduism has always used a yardstick in order to try and live in harmony with nature. It is called Dharma and to understand it will need a complete change of mindset from the psychosis of millenarianism and apocalyptic eschatology which has infected western thought for the last two thousand years.
……“There are periods in the history of the world when the unseen Power that guides its destinies seems to be filled with a consuming passion for change and a strong impatience of the old. The Great Mother, the Adya Shakti, has resolved to take the nations into Her hand and shape them anew. These are periods of rapid destruction and energetic creation, filled with the sound of cannon and the trampling of armies, the crash of great downfalls, and the turmoil of swift and violent revolutions; the world is thrown into the smelting pot and comes out in a new shape and with new features.
“ – Sri Aurobindo
The author is a member of the UK based human rights group HHR and is a contributor to The Chakra. The author’s views are his own.