Apocalypse Soon > The End

Come on Down, And Make Your Stand


Come on Down,
and Make Your Stand
By Michael Goodspeed
Come roll out the red carpet,
Come bugler sound the horn
Cause the hero is returning
Gotta welcome him to his home
Don't say I didn't warn you
This prophecy's coming true
I can hear the cavalry thundering
Riding over the hill
Riding over the hill
--The Alarm's "The Stand"
The word "catastrophism" has been a part of my personal lexicon for most of my life. You have to admit, it's a pretty cool word. It describes a paradigm totally contrary to the perspective one finds in the mainstream sciences. Most geologists and astronomers tell us that major changes on the earth and in space have occurred incrementally over eons of time. Catastrophists, on the other hand, believe that quite recently, violent and sudden changes have occurred on the most prodigious scale.
I gained insight into this alternative paradigm at a very young age. My father, David Talbott, has devoted his life to reconstructing the global (and cosmological) catastrophes first postulated by Immanuel Velikovsky. I remember vividly the conversations my father and I had on the topic when I was a child. He painted for me an awe-inspiring picture of the ancient sky -- a grand theater for the most wondrous dramas ever witnessed by human beings. He described a timeless epoch known as Paradise on Earth, or the Golden Age, when benevolent gods reigned peacefully in the heavens. This era came to a violent end when terrifying monsters brought war and chaos. The titans in this battle were the PLANETS -- Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, and Venus were at various times unstable bodies caught in a tumultuous dance of ELECTRICAL interaction with each other and the earth. To mankind, the cataclysms reaped by this cosmic drama were nothing less than the End of the World. (See The Origins of Doomsday Anxiety, http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050914doomsday.htm )
I learned of this story in the early 1980's, at the age of 8 or 9. The 80's was a great era for people fascinated with the End of Everything. Fear of nuclear holocaust pervaded the popular culture. Television movies like Threads and The Day After left viewers depressed and terrified of the future. I remember the sick feeling that arose in my gut whenever I heard a test of the emergency broadcast system. I imagined what it would be like to have my favorite TV show interrupted by that screeching, tonal signal. A famous news anchor would then appear, looking shell-shocked and blinking back tears, and inform his audience that the Russians had done the unthinkable; they had fired their missiles.
I did not fear nuclear war out of a fear of death. Nor did I fear it because I thought the world was wonderful and would hate to see it destroyed. I feared the End of the World because it would surely mean that God was insane, or even worse, a sadist. If God were insane or sadistic, the Universe would be an inescapable madhouse of cruelty and depravity. I prayed to God that He would not let the nukes fly, to prove to me His goodness and sanity.
The 80's passed, and the Soviet Union fell, and I sought new outlets for my Doomsday fixation. In the early to mid-90's, with the millennium fast approaching, there was a resurgence of interest in Nostradamus and psychic prophecy. I watched all off the Doomsday related television shows, and I began to listen to the late-night radio show of Art Bell. I became well-acquainted with Bell's most popular guests, most of whom predicted End of the World scenarios right around the turn of the century.
The year 2000 came and went, and it became obvious to all thinking persons that the millennial Doomsday hype was without merit. Plenty of catastrophic events have happened in recent years, but clearly, the self-styled prophets and "futurists" have been REACTING to trends rather than predicting them.
If you really want to know the future, your best bet is not the Bible or Nostradamus. Believe it or not, authors of FICTION have been far more accurate at predicting the future than the world's most celebrated "prophets." I've come to believe that artists who lose themselves in the act of creativity are empowered with a "second sight" that is not accessible to "psychics" who are driven by money and ego.
Consider the many examples of fiction accurately forecasting the future. Author HG Wells is said to have predicted the invention of tanks and nuclear war and industrial robots. The writings of George Orwell seem particularly prescient, given the ever-escalating manifestation of a "police state" in the U.S.A. And many Hollywood movies have featured predictions and/or synchronicities warning us of some of our country's darkest hours. The school-shooting phenomenon was portrayed with frightening accuracy 8 years prior to Columbine in the dark satire "Heathers." And in the years leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, countless Hollywood films featured bizarre, chilling "coincidences" with the numbers "9/11." (For one of the most comprehensive reviews of 9/11 synchronicities in films, check out this article on the Conspiracy Archive website: http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NWO/Hollywood_911.htm )
In my opinion, no creative person has been better at predicting the future than Stephen King. Over the last 2 years, I've written several essays outlining instances when King's writings have forewarned of alarming trends and events in American culture, including the sadistic reality-TV craze (The Running Man, The Long Walk), school shootings (Rage, which King wrote more than 2 decades before Columbine), and 9/11 (again The Running Man.) Knowing King's propensity for unintentional prophecy, I've watched current events unfold with more than a little unease. I'm particularly concerned about the presence of the words "pandemic" and "superflu" in world news headlines. You see, King's most popular book to date is an apocalyptic epic called The Stand -- the tale of humanity's war of Good versus Evil after a manmade virus wipes out 99.7% of the population.
I've always found The Stand to be an incredibly addictive read, and I resent critics who dismissed it (and other excellent King novels) as "junk fiction." In addition to its emotional power and high entertainment value, The Stand might be the most prophetic work of popular fiction ever written. And as Dune author Frank Herbert once stated, "Sometimes the function of...fiction is not to predict the future but to prevent it."
The story begins at a government lab devoted to cultivating biological weapons. An utterly deadly "flu-like" virus is unintentionally released when a computer malfunctions and a panicked guard abandons his post. The virus is airborne, and immediately begins to spread like a "chain letter that keeps on giving."
As the pandemic catches fire, the Government races furiously to find a vaccine. Towns with incidences of the illness are quarantined, and survivors are sent to Government facilities to be studied like lab rats. Officialdom takes an unbending position of denial and obfuscation with the media, even murdering reporters who stumble onto the truth. News anchors spout the government line chapter and verse, sometimes glancing nervously off camera while reading their scripts. In one of the more startling passages in any King novel, a radio talk show host is gunned down live on the air for refusing to abdicate his microphone under "official orders."
But the virus cannot be contained in the U.S., so the General in charge with cleaning up the mess decides to spread it around the globe a bit. "Share and share alike," he says with a rueful grin. He pops downers while quoting lines from Yates ("Things fall apart...The center cannot hold"), and ultimately blows his own brains out when he realizes all is lost. In a particularly chilling scene prior to his suicide, the General expresses his sense of despair and futility by quoting from Yates' The Second Coming: "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
While everything is falling apart, King introduces the tale's "good guys" and "bad guys" -- the lucky and unlucky few who survive the pandemic. The "good guys" are compelled by psychic visions of an old woman strumming a guitar named Mother Abigail. The "bad guys" are drawn by visions of a blue-jeans and cowboy boot-clad entity known as the Dark Man (an agent of Satan himself). Eventually, the survivors converge in their respective gathering points -- the "good guys" in Boulder, CO, and the "bad guys" in Las Vegas. Both sides are psychically aware of one another, and formulate plans for an inevitable confrontation.
In Boulder, a committee is democratically elected to make decisions in the community's best interests. One of the elected officials is an elderly sociologist named Glenn Bateman, who offers cogent analysis of the post-Apocalypse effort to rebuild society. Bateman expresses doubt about the community's ability to cope with the Dark Man and his legion of sycophants. In times of chaos and trauma, Bateman reasons, people are drawn to the biggest and strongest personality. They are actually eager to be given orders, even if it means giving up their personal freedoms. And true enough, the Dark Man has no problems keeping his followers in order, even publicly crucifying those who go against his will. He immediately begins building military resources to invade Boulder and kill its inhabitants.
But the Boulder community is more ambivalent about enforcing laws and building military might. The tale's "leading man" (or the closest thing), is Stu Redman -- a humble, soft-spoken man who walks softly and carries a big stick. Stu's girlfriend is Frannie, a voice of pacifism who argues against building a military force, because doing so would mean "starting the same ##### up all over again." Stu is elected town sheriff, but it is not a duty he is eager to perform. He is abhorred by the idea of lording power over his fellow citizens.
Eventually, Stu and his fellow committee members discover that a person in the community may want to kill them. Faced with this problem, their solution is not to put the offender in jail, but to BANISH him. How could they do anything else? They had no judicial system in place, and could not justify holding someone in prison without due process. However, they make their discovery too late, and one of their members is murdered.
Simultaneous to this, Mother Abigail returns to Boulder after a long and inexplicable disappearance. Emaciated and in her final death throes, she advises four committee members that they must head west for a final confrontation with the Dark Man. She insists that they go on foot, and carry no supplies, and no weapons. They will put their fate entirely in the hands of God, and offer no resistance to the Dark Man's violence.
And the Hand of God does save them...sort of. Stu breaks his leg on the journey to Las Vegas and cannot continue. His fellow travelers go on and are apprehended by the Dark Man. Facing a brutal public execution, they are spared an anguished death when one of the Dark Man's followers (the delightfully unbalanced arsonist known as "The Trashcan Man") detonates a nuclear bomb in the middle of town. Everyone is killed, although the force that is the Dark Man survives in some diminished form.
In the book's final scene, Stu sits with Frannie, and she wonders aloud if the tiny remaining human population has learned anything from the Apocalypse. And King angered some of his readers with Stu's response: "I don't know."
What can we learn from The Stand that can be applied to our current situation? Clearly, Government's response to widespread cataclysm is more dubious than ever. As in King's novel, the "center did not hold" in New Orleans. The images of thousands of human beings abandoned by Government, starving, dehydrating, and killing one another should be enough to force a radical "paradigm shift" in all of us.
Just how prepared are you to make it in a world that has descended into sheer chaos and bedlam? Surviving the Apocalypse will not just be a matter of storing canned food and bottled water in your basement. It is simply not possible to anticipate all of the things that might go wrong in a worst case scenario -- and the likelihood that things will go wrong increases exponentially if you and your loved ones are cut-off and isolated.
The survivors of The Stand knew that they could not make it on their own. They were driven by a spiritual and psychic instinct to band with others of like mind, for the best possible chance of survival. This is an important lesson for my fellow citizens of the United States. In this country, our collective affluence has left most of us disconnected and in a world of our own -- COMMUNITY no longer exists. I don't care how much money you might have in the bank, it is not going to help you if you are stepping over corpses on a lifeless city street. The survivors in The Stand could only use money as a fast-burning form of kindling.
Our obvious growing need for interpersonal connectedness was expressed beautifully by author Ran Prieur in his essay, "How to Survive the Crash and Save the Earth." He writes, "You may feel like you want to do it alone, but you have never done it alone. To survive the breakdown of this world and build a better one, you will have to trade your sterile, insulated links of money and law for raw, messy links of friendship and conflict. The big lie of postapocalypse movies like Omegaman and Mad Max is that the survivors will be loners. In the real apocalypse, the survivors will be members of multi-skilled well-balanced cooperative groups...." (Source: http://deconsumption.typepad.com/deconsumption_reading_roo/sustainable_living/)
But in my opinion, most of my fellow Americans are neither multi-skilled, nor cooperative. When we need to eat, we buy food at the grocery store. When we need medical care, we go to a doctor. When we feel that we are in danger, we call the police. But how will you react if and when there are no grocery stores, no medical care, and no police? What will you do if and when you, like the poor people of New Orleans, are left all alone, and NO ONE IS COMING TO HELP YOU?
I'm asking myself that question with increasing urgency. Indeed, I am so convinced of the likelihood of total financial, social, and environmental collapse in the United States that my preparations have begun in earnest. For several months, I've been exploring the possibility of doing an internship at one of the "ecovillages" in my home state of Oregon. An ecovillage is an "intentional community" devoted to sustainable and environmentally conscious living. Most ecovillages are made of members who live almost entirely "off of the grid." They generally make their income from holistic, privately owned businesses and private farming. Members "earn their keep" by doing what is necessary for the community to survive. They practice self-reliance and as much independence as possible from the money-based society, including growing their own food. (For a more comprehensive explanation of ecovillages and many related links, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecovillage)
Even if the worst case scenarios do not manifest in the immediate future, the benefits of intentional communities are numerous, and extraordinary. I've lived in a communal setting before, and in my opinion, it is not only safer, but a healthier and more natural way to live. For the spiritually inclined, the need to be surrounded by others of like mind can be as real as the need for food and water. And the physical benefits seem obvious. If all Americans ate organically, do you really think that 70% of us would be overweight?
I believe we have no choice but to realize that the our entire way of life may now be coming to its inevitable, hideous conclusion, and that we are as unprepared for this as a newborn infant that loses its bottle. It is time for all human beings to re-discover their intrinsic need for one another. Our very survival may depend on it.
How many catastrophes will it take for Americans to learn that their money, their possessions, and their GOVERNMENT cannot save them when things fall apart -- or in other words, that the center cannot not hold? Remember Stu Redman's response when his beloved Frannie asked him if people ever change.
"I don't know," Stu replied.
Neither do I.


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