Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sylvia's Rapture

Surprising everyone, including him, Earl gets raptured.
 According to religious shyster Harold Camping, the world was supposed to end today. As we prepared to head out for breakfast, Sylvia said, "Well, it looks like the world didn't end after all."

"No, I suppose not," I said, then paused in the act of closing the car door for her. "Unless," I said slowly, "Unless...we're the only people left on Earth."

"Then we are looting," Sylvia said. "And we're taking over a mansion." I laughed.

Sylvia's reaction encapsulates the powerful appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction. Who among us hasn't imagined being one of a few lucky or hardy survivors in a world emptied of most other people? We imagine unparalleled freedom to explore the world, to plunder the riches left behind by the dead, to drive at reckless speeds, to indulge our inner cavemen and destroy things for no good reason?

It's a nihilistic, selfish fantasy, but I've indulged it often. In one of my favourite scenarios, I'm visiting Leaf Rapids in midsummer when the apocalypse strikes. With only a few weeks to go before winter hits, can I find the resources to make my way to warmer climes to escape a chilly grave? You can't go far on one tank of gas, and once the power goes out refills would be impossible, at least for someone like me, with no practical skills whatsoever. Actually, I probably wouldn't last long at all without the comforts of modern infrastructure...nor, despite survivalist fantasies, would most other products of 21st century western culture.

Doomsday appeals to many people. Perhaps if we worked harder at building a civilization that works for everyone, these fantasies would lose their lustre.

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