In 2021, I would post semi-weekly under the banner of Weekly Wonderings. These were just some thoughts on current events or things going on with me at the time. Once we got to the Netherlands, I slacked on that and eventually stopped altogether. I wasn’t sure what to talk about and focused more on movie reviews and other blog content. In 2022, I want to do something like Weekly Wonderings again but a little more focused on a single topic for a post. The posts will also relate to how the media (film, television, etc.) has shaped my own perception of things and how I’m expanding my understanding to break out of these societal structures. With things being what they are in the United States and globally, I wanted to talk a little about what we think of when discussing the apocalypse and what it may actually be.
The United States is reporting new COVID-19 cases at record numbers right now. Yesterday (7/1/22), the country had 727,863 new cases with a seven-day average of 604,433. Deaths are averaging 1,381 a day, with yesterday clocking it at 1,843. With the recent cases, we have to consider the collapse of testing in many places and realize that number is a low count. The U.S. is also far and away the deadliest place to be during the pandemic, with over 900,000 official deaths. Tennessee just “discovered” over 2,000 COVID deaths that hadn’t been put into the totals until December 2021.
It’s hard for me to talk about the psychology of people in other cultures as comfortably as I feel talking about the American mind. But, having spent 40 years in America, I know that way of thinking much better than anywhere else. At my last teaching placement, there was an annual required suicide training due to a couple students taking their lives years prior. This training was the exact same spiel every single year and never once explored the idea of actual suicide prevention. Instead, it basically outlined your responsibility as a teacher in reporting observed suicidal ideation or comments to the proper authority figures. There was a brief mention of demographics as to who committed suicide (LGBTQ were mentioned in the slides and not commented on further by the instructor). In these trainings, unless you knew better, you would think suicide was a random occurrence without rhyme or reason.
Jump to summer 2020 as the civil unrest around the murder of Black people was raging through the country. I saw that we were set to have a training connected to our Leader in Me curriculum (7 Habits for Kids) that talked about equity issues. Wow, what an excellent time to have such a training. Ah, but I should have remembered where I was. The training happened and was the vapidest waste of time. If you have ever seen or heard those instances where prejudice is being taught and the instructor uses a scenario where Suzy is bullied because of her red hair, then you know the level of content being delivered here.
I share these two things because I think they capture the willing blindness of Americans in the face of a real crisis. COVID-19 is just all this exploded in the most intense fashion. Gore Vidal summed it all up when he said, “We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.” To remember is to self-reflect, and that done not just on an individual level but a collective societal level is seen as the most terrifying act by the American subconscious. To reflect would mean to truly come to terms with the legacy of indigenous genocide, slavery, and a whole host of atrocities done in the name of America.
Suicide rates among young people aren’t random, disconnected events; they are tied directly to the fallout of capitalism and the subsequent society/planetary collapse we are in the midst of. But Americans are exceptionally skilled at producing imperialist propaganda and suppressing actual revolutionary speech. Look at how quickly the unrest from 2020 has transformed into sycophantic doubling down on the bootlicking of police. The surreal remembrance of January 6th held in Washington, DC is a perfect example of this as so many speeches and subsequent posts talk about police being the real heroes of that day. Of course, that discounts the countless videos that show riot police standing by and letting the chaos ensue. Try storming your state’s legislature and see how quickly the police put you down like a rabid dog. Funny they couldn’t muster that up at the Capitol.
The default position of Americans is reverence to fascism, whether it be the hog brownshirts of Conservatism or the technocratic coldness of Liberalism, two shades of the same vile color. These ideologies hinge on a lack of questioning things. So, would these ideologies ever allow their people to acknowledge the actual apocalypse, the collapse of all order into chaos? Of course, they would not. That would harm the coffers, so we will be made to trudge to work, endure all host of illness and suffering, be paid in crumbs, and smile about it. I would argue the apocalypse is not a singular event but more like ripples in a pond. There is a clear focal point, but it moves out in waves over time.
We’re so used to seeing the end of the world as directed by Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay. Everything is fine, and then one day, the Earth cracks open, or aliens descend to incinerate us. That makes for an entertaining spectacle, but it’s hardly the way the end of the world would happen in real life. I’m of the mind that the world ended somewhere around World War I or II, and those ripples just now caught up to the United States in a way they cannot ignore any longer. The apocalypse is a multi-generational, multi-decade event. For people in developing countries and those ravaged by the extraction economies of colonialism, the world ended for them before they were born. They live in a hell world myself, and my fellow Americans have no actual ability to comprehend. We have enjoyed the fruits of privilege and exploitation for so long that the United States is a fantasy. As someone, I met here in the Netherlands said, “America is like a big theme park that is a lot of fun to visit. But then you just feel sorry for the Americans by the end of your visit.”
That pity comes from realizing Americans live in a distortion of reality, a willfully constructed artifice of what existence is. COVID-19, with its avalanche of deaths and imminent obliteration of the shreds of a healthcare system, should tear away that veil. Sadly, I expect Americans, a culture prone to flock to cults and bizarre religious sects, will dig deeper into their superstitions. This will appear as religious but also “trusting in the science.” It’s horrifically comical how the current administration tosses around a phrase like “trusting in the science” to only show how little they care from environmental deregulation to complete and utter failure to stop a plague. The one thing we can trust in is that reality does care what delusions we build to protect ourselves. It will tear them down and destroy us without a second thought.
It’s been laid bare that institutions and authorities of the Western world are completely and utterly broken. This current plague simply opened some people’s eyes to that. Their assurances that the big wind-up machine that is society will “resolve all conflict, we simply need to stand back and watch” is empty pablum. What they really need is for us to continue laboring and consuming at ever-increasing rates to ensure they continue to build up hordes of wealth and resources. Then, when it becomes impossible to ignore that life as we know it is over, these powerful, wealthy people will use those resources to shield themselves even further. They are delusional; the machine that actually holds all power are the laws of nature. We’ve abused the planet and life in such a myriad of ways that we can keep ignoring the problems, but those problems will see us to our graves.