Thursday, April 19, 2007

Al Gore and Other Dancing Gigolos of the Apocalypse

It used to be that the apocalypse was only popular with evangelical Christians. But for the last few decades, environmentalists have become the foremost apocalyptics in the modern west. CAGW--catastrophic anthropogenic global warming--is custom made for the earnest modern apocalyptic true believer. And there is no better promoter of CAGW than Al Gore, seminary drop-out and political has-been.
Like the Book of Revelation, Gore's vision is an apocalyptic one. Scenes of smoggy skylines, gridlocked traffic and smokestacks are interspersed with crashing glaciers, storm-ravaged cities and Third World refugees fleeing on foot. Computer models predict the submerging of continents and the deaths of millions. Every problem on the planet, including overpopulation, war and infectious diseases, is attributed to global warming. If ever there were a vision of the End Times, this would be it. But instead of God's wrath raining down on the planet, it's human beings that are doing the damage. One might call it apocalyptic environmentalism.

Faith-Based Science?

At the heart of this new religion is planet Earth, photographs of which Gore holds up as if they were objects of worship. In fact, audiences are told in the trailer that they "owe it to the planet to see this movie," which is certainly a novel marketing approach. Then to add just a twist of relationship psychobabble, the question is raised, "Did the planet betray us or did we betray the planet?" Gore provides the answer later, stating matter-of-factly that "our civilization is destroying the planet." So why not just kill ourselves off now and get it over with?

But Al Gore is not the only dancing gigolo of the apocalypse. He is joined by Islamists of both Sunni and Shia sects.
The study of Muslim apocalyptic is absolutely essential to the understanding of modern Islam. Anyone who wishes to understand the huge influence which these groups have on the direction of Muslims will not be able to ignore them. Although the groups are frequently anonymous and unknown until they burst onto the world stage with some action, they cannot be accused of being secretive about their motives orbeliefs. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books are available at every bookstand, and are frequently handed out in mosques. Much research remains to be done to ascertain what is the exact connection between the literature and the action, especially suicide attacks which require a strong ideological imperative.

Both Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clearly qualify as apocalyptics on a very similar scale as Al Gore.

All else being equal, not many people would prefer to destroy the world. Even faceless corporations, meddling governments, reckless scientists, and other agents of doom, require a world in which to achieve their goals of profit, order, tenure, or other villainies. If our extinction proceeds slowly enough to allow a moment of horrified realization, the doers of the deed will likely be quite taken aback on realizing that they have actually destroyed the world. Therefore I suggest that if the Earth is destroyed, it will probably be by mistake.
Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute.

And Yudkowsky is probably right about most apocalyptics--although probably not the Islamist dancing gigolos. As for Al Gore and his CAGW crusade, one can only observe the apparent excitement displayed at every hurricane or other "sign and portent" of the coming apocalypse, to understand that these people are truly getting into the spirit of their end-of-the-world act.

Modern narcissistic and psychologically neotenous youth in the US are custom made for apocalyptic crusades. Having been left with limited knowledge, skills, and competence by a governmental educational system in decay, they are searching for a meaning and purpose where they can utilise their limited skill set. Political activism is one such purpose, and apocalyptic activism is particularly attractive.

The same type of lack of preparation for the real world is prevalent among the young and burgeoning populations of most muslim countries. Combining a huge surplus of incompetent but passionate youth, with an apocalyptic vision that involves destroying the great enemy of Allah and imperialistic oppressor of Islam, gives many of these youth a purpose that they cannot resist.

Complicating this circus of dancing apocalyptic gigolos, is the very real set of existential risks of the modern world. And see here for a more thorough treatment.

While Al Gore burns large quantities of jet fuel traveling the globe with his apocalyptic message--for fun, profit, and general adoration--bin Laden and Ahmadinejad are in the dancing apocalyptic gigolo routine until the bitter end. Both men actually believe in what they are fomenting, and see the apocalypse as being for the better good of Allah's children.

Science fiction books, films, and television, have long used the apocalyptic theme as a source of ideas. Many of my favourite books and films utilise this very theme. There is no question of whether the apocalypse works. It works very well to grab the attention and stimulate the emotions. But humans do not function well when kept hyper-stimulated continuously.

That is what Karen Hurley tried to get across to fellow environmentalists, with little success. That is what Bjorn Lomborg tried to get across to others who were concerned with the many environmental problems of the world. For that he was soundly demonised by those less competent.

Many muslims have tried to get their fellow religionists to chill out a bit. For their attempt at moderating the mouth-frothing masses, they have been rewarded with death threats, stonings, beheadings, and other signs of typical gratitude that a true believer displays, when he is told to think more broadly.

A true apocalypse is unlikely, except perhaps by collision of the Earth with a large asteroid or comet. But limited nuclear war becomes more likely with each passing day that the current regime in Iran remains in power. A large scale pandemic with mortality approaching 50% could sweep through many of the overcrowded cities of the third world. It is not impossible that the US, Russia, China, and the muslim world could become involved in protracted warfare, resulting in a massive economic collapse and the deaths of hundreds of millions.

Many things can go wrong in a world that is both massively interdependent and marbled with apocalyptic hatred and fear at the same time.

True believers in conspiratorial apocalyptic visions are very dangerous. Yet they become more common as society fails to provide its younger generations with competence and purpose. We can only bypass the incompetence of society for a limited number, if the dancing apocalyptic gigolos finally succeed in creating the disruption and destruction that they appear to be aiming for.

If you depend upon the news media to understand the world, you will probably arrive late and unprepared for the catastrophes that do, in fact, come to pass. Try to be more alert, would you?