Sunday, September 27, 2009

End of the World

Whether this book is right or wrong about the fact that Russian soldiers might well have accidentally set off a nuclear war, we know that the Khrushchev brought the world to the brink of nuclear extermination too. So perhaps we do live in a much, much safer world than we did at any point in the Cold War. It's odd that it doesn't feel that way.

Mushroom Cloud

We feel as if we live in the scariest world imaginable, with Islamic terrorists and killer flu germs, and global warming, etc. I remember somebody recently noticed a commercial on t.v. that said what has now become a commonplace: "we live in the most stressful age in history." Her response was appropriate: Really? Really??!! This is the most stressful age ever? More stressful than an age that, for example, saw the invasion of the Huns, the bubonic plague, the collapse of the Roman Empire, etc.

China Remains On Bird Flu Alert As 12,000 Chickens Die In Chongqing

It seems obvious that every generation, or at least many generations, have felt that they lived on the brink, almost at the end of the world. In fact, Christian theology seems almost dependent on the notion that the end of the world is at hand, and its interesting to note that the many Christians pointed to the collapse of the Soviet Union as a clear signal that the apocalypse was right around the corner.

Christian Apocalypse Video Game Stirs Controversy

The real tragedy of the post-Cold War world is that it seems to have revealed the fact that, psychologically, humans seem to have a basic need to feel as if the world were fragile, whether or not this is indeed the case. For 9-11, that unprecedented American disaster, was indeed nothing in comparison with what the Soviets threatened to do to American for decades at a time.

Yet we're actually in two wars now, each lasting for many years, and we're even apparently at war on the home front, even to the extent that civil liberties are being scaled back (and some of the restrictions made semi-permanent apparently by the Obama administration--see NYRB article on the subject).

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