We live in extraordinary times. Extraordinarily bad, that is, and our situation will undoubtedly deteriorate from here on out. There may be brief economic reprieves in the future, but they will not last because there are too many factors (too many mouths to feed, the changing climate, the deteriorating oceans, diminishing natural resources) going the other way—toward decline and, eventually, a noxious if not unlivable world. I believe that world is still some decades away. I believe we will see that world before the 21st century is out. I have discussed the reasons why I believe that at length on this blog.
Despite all this, you will rarely (if ever) see the world "collapse" in my writing. This word is the currency of people who I call Doomers. More precisely, early 21st century doomerism in all of its manifestations is a form of contemporary eschatology—
Eschatology is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the biblical study of end times prophecies and the events of the last days. Some of these events include the Rapture, the Second Coming of Christ, the Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom and the Future Judgments. The primary books of the Bible pertaining to end times prophecy are the book of Daniel, the book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation.
Though a challenging area of study, Eschatology helps believers understand the prophetic passages of Scripture and how to live the Christian life in preparation for the end times.
It is important to understand that eschatology, whether it requires God(s) or not, is fundamentally religious in nature. Thus when Dmitry Orlov, or Max Keiser (video below), or John Rubino (of dollarcollapse.com) speak so emphatically of the coming collapse, they are actually talking about a kind of secular Rapture or Second Coming.
That about.com page quoted above refers to how to live the Christian life in preparation for the end times. How does this apply, for example, to Dmitry Orlov or John Rubino? I told you yesterday, but I will elaborate today.
Doomers can ignore politics because they believe industrial civilization is rapidly coming to an end, so what's the point of paying attention to what's going on as Jeremy Jackson or I do? In this sense they are mostly oblivious to the large changes occurring on this planet. The collapse itself is construed as a perverse form of Salvation for the Illuminati (the Doomers themselves).
The beliefs in secular collapse on the one hand, and the Christian end times on the other, are structurally the same. Leaving out the details of the collapse, which always vary because they are made-up or are based on half-truths, we see that in both cases we have—
- the trials, which are the unhappy events (e.g. 9/11, the Iraq war, the financial crisis of 2008) leading to up to
- the end, which is the sudden, rapid destruction (from the outside in the Rapture, from within in the dollar/peak oil collapse) of the human-made world, followed by
- salvation for some, in which those who are properly prepared (the righteous ones after the Rapture, those who have accumulated gold, guns and canned goods or grow their food locally after the economic collapse) get to go on living, whereas everyone else dies or suffers terribly. Only the saved live on or profit from the crisis.
Belief in the Christian end times or the rapid collapse of industrial civilization—both are coming to a theatre near you!—are cases of pre-scientific thinking. These beliefs are based on faith, not on weighed & considered evidence. In scientific parlance, what is predicted is a non-linear event (or tipping point) which only a few "discerning observers" can see, and which the rest of us, who lack such faith, are blind to. Straightforwardly, no one can possibly predict such an event, which necessarily departs from our experience, without near-perfect knowledge of the physical (economic, natural) world and how it works. The Doomers apparently have such knowledge. The rest of us do not.
However, the contemporary eschatologist must always leave himself some wiggle room for the simple reason that the predicted Rapture or economic collapse never seems to occur on schedule, if a specific date or timeframe has been offered, and this departure from prediction must be explained away if faith and group belief structures (and incomes) are to be maintained (and again, see the video below.)
And now you understand, I hope, why I never use the word collapse on DOTE. I am not in the business of predicting non-linear events (e.g. in the climate or the economy). This is not a religious blog. I am not a Doomer in the sense described here. I am trying to foster an informed, intelligent discussion of the Human Future. So far, I don't think I've succeeded in doing that, but I will keep trying. Maybe it's an impossible task. Watching that Jeremy Jackson video I put up last Thursday would be a good start.
Regarding the Doomers, you regular readers should know by now that I think human beings are completely hopeless in the general case. For example, they are hopelessly enmeshed in politics, as I explained yesterday (although Doomers disdain politics because the end is near). They are inevitably prone to religious modes of thinking. Generally speaking, humans are not rational in any significant way. Doomers are not exceptions to these rules. In fact, they exemplify them splendidly. Fundamentally religious arguments hide behind the mask of Reason, which means that Doomers of all stripes "sound reasonable" until you look at their underlying assumptions.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that various Doomers make a good living promulgating the religious beliefs they espouse ("spreading the collapse message"). I will not discuss the question of whether they are always sincere or not. I presume that most of them are. The psychological rule says that people want to have some control over their future. The Doomer story offers them this control (e.g. buy gold, grow your own food). This story is very popular.
Humanity has a big problem here in the 21st century. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. In so far as the overwhelming majority of humans are part of the problem, the problem appears to have no solution.
After reading this post, if you don't understand this point, and more importantly can not see it, you are officially hopeless in my book.
I take this issue very seriously. I will not tolerate Doomers commenting on this website, or hijacking the discussion as they are wont to do. Not now, and not ever. So if you want to say something, don't mention Dmitry Orlov or Max Keiser or some others I could name. If you want a partial list, look at the honorary members at ClubOrlov. That's a quick way to find yourself unwelcome at DOTE.