Apocalypse Chic: When you get that special Babylon feeling

 Images 2006 07 20 World 20Leba Slide1

Fadi Ghalioum/Reuters. NY Times:

Journalists inspected damaged buildings Thursday after Israeli air raids in southern Beirut. (photo feature)

I would like to examine the many layers of what is going on in the mideast right now, a tricky proposition. I haven't posted a ton of stuff on the 9 days of heavy fighting so far, as the various blog commentaries and disturbing hawkish proclamations have the air of armchair morons who know nothing about the region, yet still are convinced that lots of people have to die, and then it will all make sense.

When Newt Gingrich calls it World War III, that's really... uh, something.

First I have to subtract the particular aura of doom that has settled over events, an aura deliberately fostered by all sides' political leaders that I call 'Apocalypse Chic.' In the next post I'll start into the concrete tactical reality of the situation - but first we need a little better metaphysical footing.

Last week I shared a certain moment with my former roommate on the stoop of my new building on Grand Avenue. "Shit! It's the Apocalypse!" I lamented. It seemed a juncture with eerie precedents in years past, hanging around Macalester bitching about the war and the latest lurch towards Armageddon. Later my caretaker said, "You know, it's always some damn thing - one crisis after another." Yet somehow the world keeps turning.

Duerer-ApocalypseAfter Iraq started, I used to fear that total destabilization - the Eschaton or the Apocalypse - the point of no return, the end of predicting the future, since chaos renders it opaque. I thought that our leaders had embraced a creepy kind of foreshadowing, a sidewinding dance towards a destiny of doom. Yeah, they still do. But I don't really believe in the Eschaton anymore. It just gets more complicated each time. (image filched from Wikipedia)

The concept of "Judgment Day," (in my view a fiction since I don't believe in organized religion) first came about with the Zoroastrians in Persia, and from there integrated into Judaism (during the Babylonian captivity), Christianity and Islam. (That's definitely part of why the Book of Daniel is so kooky). Its purpose, in part, is to structure social and political authority, as decisions of the leadership can be represented as actions designed to face their societies for the imminent (and immanent) Rapture.

To fundamentalists in America, this is definitely compounded by Iraq's history as the site of wicked Babylon, and a fealty towards a highly militarized Israel, preparing to settle all the Promised Land - especially the West Bank - as a preparation for the End.

Many times in history, from the Nazis to Khmer Rouge, the American apocalypse brigades, Israel's messianic ultra-Orthodox West Bank settler organizations like Gush Emunim, and of course various Islamic movements, all of these have a foundation of belief that God dispensed order and disorder into the world, and free will counts for a limited time only, until S/He cancels the lease. Therefore, the leaders claim to be positioning their societies before this 'ultimate judgment,' and anyone who challenges their decisions is fucking up the preparations for the End of Days.

At this late date in the Middle East, "propaganda by deed" and demonstrations of lethal force are intended to both create new norms of behavior and solidify the obedience of the followers behind the leaders. The latest violence is like a kind of inverted Calvinism, where instead of Good Works demonstrating how you are a blessed one, the latest violence is represented as an act on the "cosmic plane," a kind of formal complaint or argument to the Metaphysical Other, to be scored on the approaching Last Day.

The aura of doom is a very disabling one - it tells you that everyday people are incapable of intervening in some blessed, fated order of events. It tells you that there is a veil of the supernatural behind which the government acts. It's a toxic fog sitting on your mind, cutting off all the alternative options and frames of reference before you've even had a cup of coffee. It's death in life. And it's the devil's greatest lie, told by all the totems of the highest morality in our societies.

It's very trendy these days, and it certainly brings out the worst in all the players. Bin Laden's style of bringing in a certain tone of eschatology has been incorporated into the tactics, strategy and Public Relations moves of Israel, the United States, Hezbollah, Iran, and the other actors in the region. That's why all the sides make their tactical moves for relatively simple reasons, while each vesting themselves in Apocalypse Chic. You just can't avert your eyes from the spectacle. You Have To Watch.

 Images Megiddo

Jezreel Plain, the site of Megiddo, (Biblical Armageddon).

Karl Rove scheduled the Ultimate Battle for October 2012, just before the Presidential Election

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