America’s apocalyptic appetite

I recently heard an advertisement over the radio for the new movie “Doomsday,” which made me realize that America seems to have an insatiable eschatological fetish. Movies such as “Independence Day,””I am Legend,” and countless other apocalyptic/monster/natural disaster works support this claim. Why Americans are so obsessed with eschatology and suffering is a question that needs pondering.

The reasons seem to stem fundamentally from the claim (once again made by my friend) that “we have a fascination with things we do not know.” This is a largely true statement about human nature. Humans wonder what their place in history will ultimately become, and how their world might end. Our species deals with these questions by inventing myths. Humans are story-telling animals, who look for intelligent agents behind unfortunate happenings. This is a beneficial adaptation for detecting enemies or explaining away disasters, as evolutionary psychology shows. These human tendencies likely produced violent apocalyptic works such as the ones found in the Bible.

High exposure to, and belief in apocalyptic texts can naturally lead to suffering or eschatological fetishes. These can be used to further military and theological agendas as can be seen in the United States today. It is also important to note that America is uniquely religious among the most developed countries (like Sweden, Norway, and Finland), and has drastically more societal dysfunction.

The American obsession with suffering and eschatology is expressed in video games, movies, websites, and books. Some examples of these are: the Left Behind series, Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War, RaptureReady.com, the Full Spectrum series, and Left Behind: Eternal Forces. These products illustrate the seeds of fascism: militarization, religiosity, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, vigilantism, masculine misogyny, and xenophobia. Enveloping the culture in these suffering and apocalyptic fetishes has the added effect of desensitizing people into complacency. People no longer mobilize against government policies like torture, domestic spying, withholding habeas corpus, and destroying the environment.

Militarists are obviously to blame for Americas obsession with suffering and a sort of eschatological thinking. The American government has always had “big evil enemies” to fight since the turn of the 20th century: Spaniards, Hawaiians, anarchists, Nazis, hippies, communists, Sandinistas, Bolsheviks, terrorists, socialists, Iraqis, Iranians, etc. The military and ideological struggles with these groups is always depicted as a great religious battle against the infidel enemy and the pious America. This is why “under God” was added to the Pledge of Alliance by Pres. Eisenhower. His effort promoted the idea that God was on the side of the United States. Many politicians use this trick to try to paint a black and white picture of reality. The effect of setting up absolutes with no middle ground is plainly to limit the field of discourse and dissent, while promoting the “us versus them” mentality maximally. This is also the mindset of apocalyptic scenarios.

United with militarists are fundamentalist theologians. Multimillionaire American televangelists such as John Hagee, Fred Phelps, and Rick Warren promote the glorious Rapture described in Revelations. Religious lunatics such as these men, unfortunately, are not on the fringes of society. They can get the Bush administration on the phone whenever they want, and give counsel to the president. For instance, John Hagee is an adviser to G.W.Bush, and is openly calling for a holy war with Iran to bring about millennial Christian dominion over the globe. This will signal Jesus’ return to Earth to rapture the Christians up into paradise, and put a glorious end to our species. Televangelist organizations, like John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, spread their life-destroying nonsense in comics, games, and other media to their massive congregations.

It is largely both the fundamentalist Christian and military obsession with suffering and eschatology that must be recognized as major contributors to America’s addiction to entertaining these destructive concepts. We should not become complacent with these unhealthy, glorified depictions of sadistic ideas. Instead we must be vigilant of them. They can show us the ideas those in power are indulging, and wanting to sell to us. Or, they can indicate a sinister reality: that a significant part of the American population has already been desensitized to the cruelty, suffering, ignorance and maladaptive myths that threaten to unmake civilization. We must not fall to the siren song of unreason that is being forced into our ears by those who perpetuate America’s apocalyptic and suffering appetites.

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~ by jsacc001 on March 5, 2008.

2 Responses to “America’s apocalyptic appetite”

  1. “The American obsession with suffering and eschatology is expressed in video games, movies, websites, and books. Some examples of these are: the Left Behind series, Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War, RaptureReady.com, the Full Spectrum series, and Left Behind: Eternal Forces (by the DoD’s Operation Straight Up).”

    What about “global warming?” That’s an apocalyptic fetish if I ever saw one!

    And what do you mean by “Left Behind: Eternal Forces (by the DoD’s Operation Straight Up)?” You make it sound like the Pentagon created the game and runs OSU.

  2. “by Operation Straight Up”

    Still not right. OSU was going to distribute the game as part of care packages, but they didn’t create the game.

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