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Catastrophes: I don’t want to turn into “the catastrophe guy”—there are clearly some people, Graham Hancock is an example, who become “catastrophe guys”. So their thing is, as with Hancock, “the comet”—a comet will come and destroy everything.

Other people say it’s AI—AI will destroy everything, most likely by accident (because it might destroy us as an incidental aside to complete a mundane task, such as making paperclips—though that example was thought up by an academic and is too cutesy to be true; so it’s not a risk—an automated drone factory that makes AI-guided anti-personnel drones probably is a risk, ignore the quackademic and his harmless paperclips).

Other people prefer pandemics (zombies—zombie films are about pandemics, in part), though because we just had Covid-19 that seems like a less satisfactory apocalypse fantasy now.

Personally, I prefer the “classic”—nuclear war (atmospheric, claustrophobic)—even though it is very unlikely (though the war in Ukraine does make it somewhat likely, except now I know Putin is a Libra I know he’s far too cautious to ever use nukes; nonetheless, the risk is somewhat elevated).

Anyway, these catastrophe fantasies fulfil all sorts of psychological needs—partly the fact that modernity is extraordinarily dull and deprives us of the trials and tribulations found on a small farmstead or in a hunting band (which the apocalypse would bring back, we hope). Also, it’s about the contemplation of death—which is very remote from us most of the time; and it’s about our own inevitable death and the idea we could avoid it, or everyone else would die anyway—but we would survive (which can feel like you’ve “won”, even if you still die).

When I was a kid in the 90s, I read some science magazine—I think it was called Focus: it predicted terrorists would fly an airliner into a nuclear power plant and that there would be a pandemic (possibly an escaped bio-engineered virus). Both these came to pass, more or less (9/11 and Covid-19)—and yet neither were as bad as I imagined. In fact, the things I’ve generally feared have turned out not to be so bad, whereas the worst things remain the completely unexpected.

If you told me in 2012, “there will be a global pandemic within this decade—millions will die, global air travel will be suspended, you will be confined to your home for months, it may well have been a bio-engineered virus,” I would have had images in my mind that were apocalyptic—the “collapse of civilisation”, check points and vigilante justice.

Yet it was nothing like that—actually, it wasn’t too bad at all. Sure, in the first month, when I saw the images from China (of people collapsing and modular hospitals being built in a rush) I thought “this is it, it’s total collapse—I wonder if 1/3 or only 1/4 of my cul-de-sac will die.” As it turned out, none did—not even the aged disabled couple at the end of the road.

You can talk about how much that was down to delusion in retrospect, but if you think back to the first month—when only the “nutball right” cared about it and everyone else was “chill, it’s the flu”—it did look like one of these apocalyptic movies, like Outbreak (1995) or Contagion (2011). Yet, in the end, it just wasn’t that bad.

Admittedly, I’m not a very social person, so it didn’t really affect my routine—I quite liked people being cleared off the streets, actually (and social distancing—great, very good; keep away from me—I don’t like to be touched). Whatever it was, as with 9/11, it wasn’t “the end”—it wasn’t ultra bubonic plague, the collapse of infrastructure etc. It was a mild inconvenience.

The worst and most apocalyptic event I have experienced remains the 2011 riots—even though those only lasted three or four days, the whole situation was more apocalyptic and worse than Covid-19 (which was much more prolonged but amounted to months of inconvenience, as opposed to actual terror). I lived in the centre of a major city at the time and I could hear the glass breaking under my flat’s window—the casino over the way from my flat, in the same complex, was stormed and only survived because the bouncers had barricaded themselves in behind metal beer kegs.

Note, this “zombie apocalypse”—and it really was, I walked to work in the morning amid broken glass and burning wheelie bins while everything was eerily silent—was totally unexpected, wasn’t “fantasised about” and was more or less down to black teenagers being angry that the police shot dead an armed thug.

Why was it worse than Covid-19? Because it involved humans. It’s humans you have to be frightened of—not viruses or comets or nuclear weapons. It’s crazed irrational humans, in this case coordinated via BlackBerrys—that’s what the apocalypse feels like, because humans are rabid and malicious and destructive.

Anyway, the point is that when I speculate about “comet strikes” or “comet debris” it’s not something I’m praying night and day to happen (I don’t really believe online right-wingers who claim to “pray to Yellowstone, we can end it here”—I think these people are really content as things are, and would be unhappy if it changed; they’re just bored, like everyone else, like the left they disdain, so they pretend “please, Yellowstone, explode”).

I don’t think a comet strike would be “the end of the world”, didn’t predict it to be so—it would be the end of civilisation but not the end of mankind; and, just like nuclear war and pandemics, I don’t think it would be *that bad*—I think it’s fun to have a fantasy about how bad it would be, but the actuality would be okay.

Long before the comet or virus gets you, you’re better to watch out for man—because that’s what you should really fear. “The deadliest prey”.


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