Evangelical Christians, who I have a lot of fun with only they don't know it, believe that Donald Trump's election is one of the heralds of something they like to call "The End Times." Based on a totally sideways reading of the Book of Revelations, it's a time when the world will be divided up into warring nations all following false prophets, the environment gets wrecked, some kind of beast shows up (Roseann Barr?) as does Jesus, everybody living and dead will be judged, and 1,000 years of peace and prosperity will follow -no word of what happens January 1 of year 1,001. To answer this claim, I quote the late 20th century philosophers Frankie Goes to Hollywood and say, "Relax." Sure, things aren't too spiffy now, but we -as in humanity -have been here before. And we've pulled through.
|It's me, Akhenaten, and really not an alien|
Luckily, Akhenaten died and after a fumble or two the throne wound up in the hands of an eight year old boy called Tutankhamun -King Tut to you and me. Now the Egyptians were really screwed, right? It turns out no, because Tut's vizier was a capable career civil servant named Ay who really had a knack for ruling. Under Tut/Ay, the capital was moved back to Thebes and the temples reopened, which earned the priestly class' undying gratitude. And so things went on swimmingly on the banks of the Nile, right up until the 1180's BC, the next time the world turned into a festering pool of excrement.
For many reasons way too obscure to go into here, the entire greater Mediterranean world fell completely apart in the late Bronze Age. How bad was it? The Egyptians were totally whupped by a bunch of nasties collectively called the Sea Peoples, but that's not all. Troy fell -for the fourth or fifth time, I lose track -Mycenaean Greece entered the Dark Ages, the Hittite Empire vanished, Assyria and Babylon were trashed, and even the mighty Phoenicians left town for Carthage, safely far away in present-day Tunisia. Not one, but several end-of-the-world scenarios were being played out during this time.
|Hey, we're the Sea Peoples. So, Egypt... wassup?|
However, eventually the Greeks got it together and invented philosophy, drama, democracy and baklava. In Mesopotamia, the Persians put together the largest empire humans had managed to create up until that time. It turned out that the move to Carthage was just what the Phoenicians needed, because they got staggeringly rich pedaling dye, grain, wine, olive oil and adult marital aids all over the known world. And although Egypt wasn't the world-striding colossus it was during Ramses the Great's time, at least it turned into a peaceful backwater.
Let us next consider Rome, though let's skip the Grandeur part and go right into the Decline and Fall. After Emperor Marcus Aurelius went on to join his family ghosts on the Elysian Fields, the Roman Empire lurched from one crisis to the next until the whole shebang wrenched apart and the Western half folded like a chump holding only a pair of sevens in a Texas hold 'em game. Sure, the Eastern half would keep the lights on until the 1453, but for everybody in Spain, Italy, France, England and other smaller bits of Europe, life was shit that just kept on getting shittier. Barbarians? You bet: Huns, Vandals, Goths and Picts. Disease? Yup. Starvation and hopelessness? Ditto. End of the world? Not quite.
|Know why it was called the Dark Ages? Because of all the KNIGHTS!! Bwa-Ha-Ha!|
For all the headaches of Western Europe's so-called Dark Ages, a vibrant culture emerged commonly called the Medieval world. Knights, ladies, monasteries, great cathedrals and tales of chivalry were all hallmarks of this period. Granted, life was difficult, but it went on all the same. During this time, the seeds of all the wonderful qualities of Western Civilization were sewn: scientific inquiry, commercial capitalism, nation-states, engineering and exploration. Democratic liberalism and rational medical treatment still had a long way to go, but at least they were on the right track. The society produced was even strong enough to survive a series of events that, to their contemporaries in the 1300's, really did look like the end of the world.
In 1347, a merchant ship pulled into Genoa harbor from a trading post on the Black Sea. The boat had left under fire from the Tatars who were besieging the port. Among its cargo was the deadly virus Yersinia Pestis, a disease carried by the fleas that infest rodents like rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters, but can also attack humans. The disease hit Southern Europe with the force of a bomb blast. After several years of increasingly deadly outbreaks, 30-60% of Europe's population died. For those that survived, their world view was warped by so much death, starvation, war and sickness that one wonders today how they found the strength to go on. End of the world yet? Close, but not yet.
|Renaissance Man: six-pack abs and stone junk|
Europe shook off the death shroud and donned a cloak of real radiance during the Renaissance
period. Painters sculptors, poets, playwrights, businessmen, kings, princes, Popes, adventurers and even some ordinary people burst forth in an explosion of creativity whose echoes are still being felt today. That's really what I admire the most about humanity: push us to the limit and we often show you human spirit at its best. Granted, the Renaissance was mostly a cultural movement of Europe's political and social elites, but in cities like Florence, Italy, individual citizens were becoming important and valued for their contributions to society. The years that followed were crowned by scientific achievements in industry and medicine, increasingly participatory governments and even greater artistic creativity, until it all almost destroyed itself in the 20th Century.
Starting with the Great War in 1918 and pausing at the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the blood-soaked 20th Century actually had the ability to bring about the end of the world as we know it. World Wars I and II brought industrial efficiency to the practice of killing soldiers and non-combatants alike, with such crackerjack tech as the machine gun, attack aircraft, poison gas and submarines, finishing up with ballistic missiles and atomic bombs. The ensuing so-called Cold War brought about a horrifying build-up and proliferation of ever more powerful atomic weapons and rocket delivery devices. For the first time, humans had the ability to kill off entire populations within hours and to poison the whole planet with radioactive fallout. Scientists even postulated a "nuclear winter" scenario affecting the climate, leading to mass species extinctions not seen since the KT-Boundary extinction event that wiped out the large land dinosaurs. End of the world? Believe it or not, no.
As of this writing, the world and humanity are open for business. Since 1945, not one nuclear bomb has been used in war, although the USSR and USA came close during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am also pleased to report that we have passed the dates for the end of the world set my the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mayans and the Heaven's Gate cult. That said, there are some ominous signs: drug resistant diseases, climate change, the proliferation of radical politics, and the growth of intolerant hate groups. But there are some hopeful signs as well: recognition of the human role in climate change and the first attempts to slow down and mitigate the damage; the growth of multi-racial, multi-ethnic nations and families; advances in communications technology that literally puts in your pocket the ability to talk to the whole world, at least one person at a time.
Sorry my evangelical friends. Donald Trump, although he has a highly inflated opinion of himself, isn't the end of the world. When or if it ever comes, the real end of the world will be way more bigly, really yuge, believe me!
|Now? Is it the End yet? Ready for me? Sigh...|