Disaster porn

27 07 2010

Some scattered musings on American apocalyptic messianism

(above: a far more plausible look into the future. Notice the lack of white Christians with Internet access.)

Lately on the Internet, I have seen an increase in what I have denominated, “disaster porn”. No, this is not your run-of-the-mill apocalyptic Hollywood movie, but rather reflections on how society will be better once it collapses and bullets become more valuable than food… once the “gummint” gets out of our business and all nation-states are dissolved into Mad Max-style fiefdoms, only with homemade jam and crocheting.

The latest essay from Inside Catholic seeks to keep that trend rolling. I cite the last paragraphs:

Yet out in the countryside, behind walls ever better fortified, little islands of civilization continue, largely beyond the reach of the tax collectors. It is urban life that collapses first.

Our own situation will be different: for our governments have inherited the technology to bring everything down, having intruded into every aspect of common life. That “hopey-changey thing,” as Sarah Palin has so eloquently called it, will wreck the Red States as surely as the Blue. And yet it is itself only a symptom of a civilization that has been, already, gutted from within.

But our situation will also be the same. For I am convinced the Catholic Christian conception of high civilization is, as democracy has been called, “the worst system except for all the others.” So that on the ruins of our own failed efforts, something quite imaginable will again begin to rise.

I am a bit confounded by these fantasies, as they do not seem to take into account that crises of civilization may not necessarily be all that cathartic. Nor do they seem particularly Christian. One Catholic commentator on a blog fantasized about, “Jimbo’s Vast Bunker, Roman Catholic Church and Underground Water Park” (BYOBJ – Bring Your Own Beef Jerky)”. Not that I don’t think survival is a worthy cause, but at that point, why would you need a Catholic church? To prove that God has saved you as His elect? That doesn’t seem all that Catholic to me.

Nor do I think those people would survive that long. There is only so much ammo you can store, and only so many people you can fight off before you are killed, your daughters are raped, and all your food is stolen. Americans like to think of themselves as self-sufficient, like they are the toughest people in the world, when in reality they are the most vulnerable. Has a war been fought on this soil in the last 150 years? Are we bordered on all sides by civilizations that want to pound our bones into powder? The only violence we have been capable of inflicting seems to be against people who live far away from us. To pretend we are so tough is symptomatic of a bully’s bravado.

American pundits like to criticize Europe for its relativism, but their parents didn’t nearly perish in a hailstorm of brimstone over some stubborn ideas that a precious few refused to give up. And not to slight the efforts of American soldiers, but the real ugly warfare was fought by the Russians and Germans on their own soil. Americans can’t imagine blood flowing through our streets, and the disaster porn fantasies of societal disintegration just go to show that all the more. If society breaks down, so they think, it can’t possibly be all that bad?

As for the hollowing of our civilization, the decline of values that made “American great”, that is also a bunch of phony bravado as well. No one now has the balls to exercise the “virtues” that made America great: to lynch the homosexual in the street for sodomy, or let the woman go into the alley to perform an abortion on herself with a clothes hanger (and arrest her if she fails). To discriminate against people for the color of their skin, or invade countries with impunity under the pretense of carrying out the “white man’s burden” (okay, the last one still goes on).

In short, our pragmatic relativism is the result of our lack of nerve, of our unwillingness to make people “virtuous through violence”. For at no time in history have people been “virtuous” without coercion. We love “our freedom” too much to be the tyrants we need to be to prevent the “collapse” of civilization. We might as well stop sniveling about it then, and stop pretending that we will become violent Christian troglodytes overnight when this all collapses. Chances are, all of these people will die along with everyone else. I for one hope to plunder all their beef jerky.

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9 responses

2 08 2010
Jeff

all your beef jerky are belong to us…

28 07 2010
Jared B.

This post has a lot of good points about American bravado, but as a critique of Warren’s article (and other Ausonius-reading “tend your farm, read poetry, and wait for the end” musings), it addresses a lot of ideas that I don’t think Warren actually expresses. For one thing, there isn’t any Jimbo big gun bunker stuff. There isn’t even anything particularly American about it; certainly nothing idolizing America.

What I see is just the opposite. I hear from many people, left and right, who rage on about what’s wrong with America and/or “the West” with the underlying assumption that it will always exist—so whatever is evil about America is something like an omnipotent evil, because America / western culture will always be around to perpetrate it. When I try to point out that whatever is destructive about our culture is necessarily destructive to itself in the long run, I am sometimes accused of wishful thinking or avoiding the problem. These musings that compare our own or the next generation to the last generations in the Roman Empire, they are the really ones who refuse to engage in the wishful thinking that “no matter how bad things get, things will essentially stay the same as they are now, only with slimmer iPhones.” The culture-war types on both sides who rant about how bad things are, they don’t sincerely believe a word of it unless they can contemplate not just the decadence but the end of our civilization, whatever form that may take. That doesn’t mean any [sane] one thinks they’re accurately predicting exactly how things will play out, but again with Warren and similar writings, I don’t see any such hubris evident so I think people are wasting their time criticizing faults they’re just projecting.

28 07 2010
The Western Confucian

One of my favorite rap tunes
if only because I’m old enough to remember back when honeys was wearin’ Sassoons.

28 07 2010
Henry Karlson

There are many factors to the “disaster porn” within Catholic circles.

For some, it is the return of the Red Scare in a new fashion.
For some, it is a kind of Catholic “left-behindism”
For some, it is a tool to scare people (like hell used to).
For some, internet conspiracy theories are getting to them.
For some, it’s the reality that the US is not going to last, and they see the world in that perspective– when the US goes, the world goes. And they might try to make it happen. I think this is a big one right now — the US as idol. As I tell people, I have no problems with patriotism in the classical sense, which had nothing to do with systems of government… but the idolization we see around us is going to lead to great suffering.

And as for beef jerky: you won’t find it on me. I’m a vegetarian.

27 07 2010
FrGregACCA

The American right, in its current incarnation, begins with Joe McCarthy. It tends to be especially restless when a Democrat is in the White House (as it was during the Clinton years). Now, however, the guy in the White House isn’t merely a Democrat; he’s a BLACK Democrat. Let us hope and pray that 2010 (and 2012) will be 1964 all over again.

27 07 2010
Huw Raphael

Of course the left was all disaster porn chic under the Bush years. I don’t know what the right was doing under Clinton… was it the same? This whole “Wrong guy in office/world’s going to end” thing is tedious. I doubt it’s Christian as well.

If we – left or right – confuse the Empire with the Church we’re bound to imagine the fall of the former means the end of the latter. If we oppose Church to Empire, in a real and political sense, we clearly end up in the same place. What little faith we have.

Anyone seen the Gates of Hell yet? Thought not.

My little Hippie Commune makes Tofu Jerky, so I know we’re safe.

27 07 2010
Sean

Best. Post. Ever.

As a reward, I promise that when you are fighting giant mutant trolls in my gladiatorial arena (which I will the Seanderdome), you get first dibs on the chain saw and trash can lid shield. Two men enter, one man leaves!

27 07 2010
Arturo Vasquez

That can be arranged. I really like beef jerky. I mean, REALLY like beef jerky.

27 07 2010
M.Z.

It’s not all that different from the ‘when we are a smaller and purer church’, everything will be better meme. Sure, it is fine as far as it goes until you get to the part where what some person defines as the essential orthodoxy isn’t all that good of a predictor of who stays or who goes. While it is true that Rome and the clerics are in control in a very real sense, their control can only effectuate so much. Likewise with the disaster porn, you can control some things (like having the ability to garden) but there is a whole lot that you can’t control. What is frustrating in listening to other people is so many people think they have control and are making choices that they clearly aren’t making and are just accepting. In society, there is a very real sense in which the individual doesn’t mean squat. The Gospels and Acts are not very individual-centric.

Before I exhaust my welcome, you can take my beef jerky from my cold dead hands.

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