Apocalypse as Liberation

The doomsday clock has been adjusted to reflect the conclusion of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that doomsday, or apocalypse, is closer now, in 2017, than it’s been since 1953. But might apocalypse, in some respects, be a good thing?

Derived from the Greek term Apo, which means ‘away from’, and Kalyptein, which means ‘hidden’, apocalypse literally means ‘away from the hidden,’ the exposure of secrets – in other words, Revelation. But just what is being revealed? And how does this literal meaning of the term fit with its figurative meaning, with its identification with the end of the world?

When our very way of life (organized by a toxic, coercive, plutocratic – i.e., capitalist – system) is revealed to be the essentially destructive, alienating system that it is – when what is still, to some degree, a secret becomes broadly acknowledged – the first type of revelation leads to the second; the revelation of this Order’s fundamental injustice leads to the dissolution of popular support. And, as history repeatedly demonstrates, when popular support for, and faith in, a given order evaporates, that concrete order quickly collapses. In other words, apocalypse should not be construed to simply mean the end of the world. Rather than the end of the world in general, apocalypse may refer instead to the end of a particular type of world: the end of the unjust world in which, as our sophisticated military technologies and our entrenched poverty equally illustrate, culture and barbarism are not only inextricable, the former serves the latter.

Viewed from this angle, apocalypse should be welcomed, and the sooner it comes the better – before Trump’s crude and frantic projects (the roundups, torture, and walls designed to shore up a dissolving traditional order) preclude the possibility of an emancipatory apocalypse and leave us with only the traditional variety: global holocaust.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber