Our Obsession with the Apocalypse
By Nicholas Sansbury Smith
A silent outbreak has taken the nation by storm—No, I’m not talking about some deadly virus, but rather the addiction to post-apocalyptic stories. They are everywhere. It seems like the major cable networks announce a new show every month with Hollywood producing a blockbuster every couple of months. Even Amazon has jumped into the fray, green-lighting Chris Carter’s new television show, The After.
The more I think about it, the more I question just why everyone seems to be fascinated with the apocalypse. I know why I am, but why are others? After deep consideration I have come up with a theory…
There is no mistaking the fact Americans live in blissful ignorance of all the ways life could end. Most people don’t know that a massive super volcano sleeps beneath Yellowstone National Park, a volcano capable of burying half of the United States in 6 feet of ash—they also don’t realize how close the world has been to the accidental launch of Nuclear Armageddon—nor do they understand the threat solar weather has on our electrical grid. Michael Crichton wrote that humans are surrounded in a sea of bacteria, and while 97 percent aren’t harmful it’s the 3 percent that could develop into a superbug that we should worry about.
But why should people worry about things they can’t see? I mean, isn’t that why most of us don’t seem to care or notice what’s going on in Ukraine, or Africa, or China? We focus on our individual bubbles that consist of daily routines. This is where we feel safe.
But for an hour each night many of us unzip our bubbles, flip on the TV and watch characters torn apart by zombies. What if those people were our neighbor’s we secretly think. We don’t stop there either. Many of us further climb out of our safety shells and head to the theatre to watch aliens take over the planet. What if this really happened we think some more. Then we throw our safety nets back on and go home, order Pizza Hut and catch a rerun of Seinfeld. Then we go to bed and rest our minds to prepare for another day of the same routine.
Deep down though, the ‘what ifs’ get to us. We have nightmares of the apocalypse. We fear it. And our subconscious knows it. We’re terrified by the notion our world could come crashing down around us.
No cellphones? “My god.”
The Internet is down? “TURN IT BACK ON!”
No hot water? No power? “God help us all.”
And guess who is banking on this fear—this fascination?
Their exploitation of our fears isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, one thing I really hope comes out of this new addiction to the apocalypse is a change at the top levels of government. Sure, there isn’t much we can do about Yellowstone, or an asteroid, but there are things we could press our elected leaders to accomplish. We could question our leaders about what the government is doing to protect our grid from solar storms, or what the CDC is doing to ensure a superbug doesn’t wipe us all out. We could pull together and demand the destruction of all nuclear warheads. The goal should be to limit the ways the apocalypse could arrive.
Of course, in the end I hope the apocalypse remains fiction, but I have the sneaking suspicion that someday; maybe tomorrow, or maybe years from now, an alien race will be watching a documentary on their version of Netflix that describes just how swiftly and suddenly humanity came to an end.