A sort of companion piece to Kurt Anderson’s ‘FantasyLand’. A book about Apocalypse Culture throughout the ages, from the first recorded gibbering fool from Zoroastrianism times up until 2006, when the book was published. Like Anderson, Pearson points out how people will believe any old shit if they’re desperate enough, but does it in a more historical concept.
It’s a ruddy fascinating pieces of work, and it’s interesting to read how Pearson charts the fact that, for a start, every bloody religion and culture on the earth has been fascinated with the end of the world throughout history, and how the number of apocalyptic doomsayers has spiralled since the dissemination of ideas has become more prolific with the Interweb. He also points out that there’s a better chance of the world actually ending due to the idiots in power, and since the nuke was developed all it would take was a madman to launch it. He then goes on to point out that there were madmen who believed in the ‘end prophecy’ times, like Reagan. I expect to see an updated version of this book for the Trump era, which is just a load of text going, “AAAAGH!! NOOOOOO!! SHIIIIIIIT!!!” and a picture of the author on the cover, screaming into the lens.
There’s a great section on the horrors of the first and Second World War, and how the sheer amount of people who were killed gave the idea that the apocalypse was nigh more credence, and how the post-war period led to the Cuban missile crises and even MORE apocalyptic cultures.
You would think a book like this would be depressing as hell, but you would be wrong. Because the subject is so weighty and depressing, Pearson manages to scatter a whole bundle of wry asides and jocular anecdotes across the text to keep the subject as light as he possibly can without denigrating the severity of what he’s writing about.
The reality is, if you take the fuckwits with their fingers on the buttons out of the equation, most of the end of the world prophets are a bunch of witless numpties. The ones who start out being the most successful are the ones who predict that next week the world will end and you’d better join up and hand over all your money and save yourself before the End Times. Inevitably they’re the ones who end up in the crapper because, obviously, when the world fails to end they have to change their message. A lot of them just keep pushing back the dates. I used to think this was purely a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but apparently there’s been a shit load of apocalyptic cults down the years which have pulled the same trick.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that King of the End of the World Wankers is the US, who seem to have made a cottage industry out of telling everyone they’re all going to die. It’s not reported in the book, but there’s even a survivalist strand out there who actually believe that the government are going to launch a zombie attack on the world, so they’d best tool up for the apocalypse before they get their nuts munched. Fucking mental.
Definitely worth reading, and very highly recommended.