Friday, September 26, 2008

Societal Collapse Anxiety Syndrome

I just invented that. Although someone else out there has probably got a better name for it.

I have always tended towards a fascination/dread of what I grew up calling The End Times. Raised as I was in a conservative Christian Fundamentalist household, we were well-versed on the biblical signs of Armegeddon, the rise of the Antichrist, the chances for being Raptured to safety pre, peri, or post-7 Last Years. At 13, I was convinced I would not live to be 20. Eventually the New Age Movement of the 80s with it's rainbows, crystals, and the dire prophecies of Constance Cumbie against said mysticism faded away, and I slowly realized that the world wasn't going to fall apart just yet.

Jump ahead about 15 years, and the Year 2000 is looming, as is my 30th birthday. Apparently decade birthdays are an opportunity for my psyche to go postal. Anyway, doom and gloom and dire warnings of technological failure are all the rage, and I suddenly became convinced that the nationwide power grid could disintegrate, and society would be reduced to absolute anarchy. I was haunted by nightmarish visions of wandering in the wilderness looking for food, shelter and water. Eventually, Elder Brother-in-Law reassured me that he had "done the homework" and the power grid would not fail, and I began to rise up from my fears. January 1, 2000 comes and goes without a blip on the screen.

I should mention that I have been exposed to the occasional apocalyptic movie, either in part, whole, (or detailed spoiler description online), which has done nothing to curb my vivid imagination as regards a dystopian future. Mad Max, nameless B and C-grade futuristic films, the zombie films of the last 4 or 5 years. Enough to help fill in the blanks of what my mind hadn't invented on its own. See, THIS is why I don't watch horror movies!

Now it's 2008, the economy is in the toilet, and it looks like the Fourth Turning has come. We may well be on the brink of a societal upheaval to equal the Great Depression, the French Revolution or the Civil War (or, it might prove to be like the collapse of the Stock Market in 1987 which also passed without a blip on the screen). If it is really a Great Upheaval, it'll probably be a mercifully slow rollout (time to adjust to shortages and financial difficulties). And when they're over, those upheavals can bring forth an amazing and dynamic new generation (Greatest Generation, anyone?)

But I'm still worried, although being unable to focus on what specifically to be worried about does make it hard to be as anxious as I was in 1983 and 1999. Plus I have better coping mechanisms and hopefully, wisdom. But my mind still wends its way along overgrowth paths in the wilderness, or in trying to anticipate what comforts I might have to lose (air conditioning... running water... a steady supply of food... prescriptions... transportation...) and how I might adapt. Notice I'm thinking of the worst - of a societal collapse (although not necessarily as bad as my Y2K and End Times fears). The gas shortages in Nashville these last 2 weeks have been particularly ill-timed and fed that anxiety.

Hardship has a way of strengthening a nation, especially when there is precious metal in our citizenry to be refined. I take encouragement from that thought. Having the arrogance and laziness squeezed out of us by difficulties may be the saving of us.


Mike Howell said...

I find I am more apprehensive for the future the more realistically inconvenient the doom scenario is. I can cope with the "Two Minutes to Midnight" hysteria, or any impending Zombie Apocalypse, but tell me that gasoline will hit $6/gallon by next year and I'll start to reflux. The rules will still be in effect in the realistic scenarios.

I don't really have a Madmaxian contingency plan. Perhaps I'll cultivate the "helpful, yet subservient, adviser" demeanor. I would offer seemingly useful advice to Lord Gar while remaining fundamentally nonthreatening.

Anonymous said...

Ok, just to feed your appetite for destruction...I was thinking that the doom would come from other countries--you know, the ones who might be pissed that we just collapsed their economy. Hmmmm...oh, and not that I consider small children to be the doom barometers, but YoYo is feverishly cramming his money into a sock right now. Just saying.