A friend and I were talking the other day about the spate of movies, TV shows and video games that revolve around the theme of apocalypse. We agreed that this seems to be the zeitgeist of the early 21st century. Of course, beyond the obvious, there is always something a little more subtle going on that moves our national mind-set along in one direction or the other.
I began to examine my own feelings about the state of the world (a little grandiose I know) and I came around to the fact that, despite my desire to be a positive person, I feel at least a small amount of trepidation about where we are headed in this country and on this planet. There seems to be an underlying hum of fear and discontent which is based upon a lack of control. Yes, we can often keep things under wraps in our personal sphere but, when the circle expands to the national and global levels the flat earth theory begins to take hold. We feel that we could cross that boundary and go off the edge into the abyss at any time.
Why would we choose to give up so much control?
There are many ways that we give ourselves permission to let go of control. That’s why we have institutions such as governments and bureaucracies that hold the social, legal and ethical underpinnings of society in place. Our place in the world seems secure because we subscribe to what these institutions represent. They equip us with the tools to navigate through our daily lives. We are educated, in one way or another, to fit in.
But, gradually, these same institutions become large and unwieldy. They eat their young. They create roadblocks. They are not responsive. This can happen in medicine, law, government and the military as well as in all the other less formal institutions that we have come to depend on.
So, what does this have to do with apocalyptic thinking?
Simply put, in my view, if we give up our independence of thought to institutions then we may be at a loss as those same institutions fail us. Our security is threatened and we start to feel that things are out of control. The apocalypse comes into view. And maybe, if we just keep indulging in apocalyptic scenarios we might learn enough to be able to survive.
What is a better alternative?
We can make it our business to promote institutional responsiveness. We can go to our city council meeting and make suggestions about how the city might better provide a service. We can vote, work on campaigns or write a letter. There are many ways that we can make the effort to become a part of something that we participate in as opposed to merely being the recipient of rules, regulations, policies and laws. This is what is called participatory democracy.
It really is up to us. And we don’t even have to give up watching The Walking Dead.