Friday, March 1, 2013

Reform, Change, Apocalypse

If we apply these three words to the future, what is almost certain is that, if we write these words with a leading cap, we will not see much if any Reform. Genuine reform, of the sort that really takes hold, requires a very strong and enduring leadership, a Napoleon, the kind of figure who (as I will soon unpack) follows an Apocalypse. It requires, also, a vast public consensus, not a radically polarized one. Therefore no leading-cap Reform. What is certain is that we shall see Change. Now as for that last term in my title, let me first give it some definition.

An important aspect of that concept, Apocalypse (certainly in the modern mind) is a cataclysmic event. And cataclysm comes from the Greek for “deluge, flood, inundation,” literally a “down-wash.” The meaning therefore is something that takes place suddenly, an event, as contrasted to change or to reform, both of which are more associated with a process. The time scale of each of these concepts if important. Those who are “sick and tired” of the current day do not react with pleasure when told that, in due time, this too shall pass. They want Apocalypse Now. They want upheaval. They want Revolution! Quickly! They want to see things in the easily encompassed near-term, therefore no more than a decade away—and even giving it a decade is distasteful.

Given this definition of Apocalypse, it is highly unlikely in the expanded now, thus within fifty years. It requires a rapid and very traumatic build-up of troubles, touching very large populations. When it comes, it is an eruption; and things are not decaying fast enough. What we shall get is Change, a word that is neutral, as such, but if I exclude the likelihood of Reform, it means Change-for-the-Worse; but it will not be massive or rapid enough to ignite a Revolution. That is, of course, the worst sort of future, but the most predictable when a vastly successful civilization begins its slide into disorder.

In our own case, which is tied to Western Civilization but has global reach—witness China caught now, like the rest of the world, in the quicksands of capitalism—there is, you might say, Apocalypse at the end of tunnel. The Change will proceed and things will get worse and worse, but the real anguish will arise closer to the end of the twenty-first century than before—when oil and gas finally run out. Their running out may come sooner than 2081 for oil or 2073 for gas (see link) if, in the run-up to that projection, which is based on “things as usual,” oil-wars begin to erupt all over the world and speed up both the consumption of it and the wealth of ordinary people to finance the conflicts.  Then, when the anguish really sets it, we may get Apocalypse. And some decades after it has run its course, at last will come Reform.

“That’s not good enough!” the angry critic of this dispensation will cry with balled fists. Sorry about that. We dispense genuine projections around here, not feel-good in the next quarter.


  1. Sigh... thanks a lot! Well, I guess it can be viewed as an opportunity... It's no big test of one's character to be kind, cheerful, trustworthy, generous and true when all is going well. The test is to be all those things when times are hard. And who wants to live in easy times anyway, right?

    1. I supply a *long* comment to yours in the next post.