THE END OF THE WORLD — AGAIN: Why the Apocalypse Meme Replicates in Media, Science, and Culture
Publication date: December 21, 2012. This is the book to read after the Mayan hysteria has passed. You know there will be more apocalypses to come, real and imagined. The question is: why?
• 171 pages
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Doomsday scenarios. They proliferate in our culture, from economics to ecology, theology to technology, biology to cosmology, James Bond to Slavoj Žižek, Plato’s Atlantis to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. With creativity and critical insight, Barry Vacker shows why apocalyptic memes replicate and have built-in survival advantages. He also explains how the doomsdays reveal the deeper challenges facing human existence — the “philosophical apocalypse” effected by our lack of cosmic meaning in the vast universe. Have we really embraced our true existence on Spaceship Earth floating in the cosmos of the new millennium? Our calendars say we have passed the year 2000, but have we really entered the new millennium? The End of the World — Again offers an original, exciting, and, for some, terrifying critique of culture in 2012 and beyond.
BACK COVER BLURBS
"Barry Vacker’s The End of the World, Again is a fantastic yet haunting book, taking us on a strange trip into the absurdities and anxieties of apocalyptic culture. The book poses many deep questions about the fate of humanity and the meaning of our existence, with an analysis that is daring and unconventional, unfolding in so many layers that it is vertiginous for the reader. The result is a fascinating and marvelously bizarre critique of media and culture after the millennium. It’s a work of absolute virtuosity."
— Elisabeth Krecké, artist and professor, Aix-Marseille Université (France), and Carine Krecké, artist and author, winner of the Premier Prix du Concours Littéraire National 2008
As Barry Vacker explains in this thoroughly researched and — frankly — fascinating book, the apocalypse is a powerful motivator and a formidable meme. It has been so for all of human history. We fear the void, and the idea of not being at the center of the universe (at least since the time of Galileo) is a fearful thing indeed. Of course, it is always at the margins where the most interesting work is done. Happily, out here on the edge of our galaxy, banished from its center after all by scientific fact, it is not the end of the world again — only the end of a certain worldview. Readers of this book should take heart, take heed of the history contained herein, and look to liberate their own creativity to reveal tomorrow’s exhilarating territory. And tomorrow always comes.
— Jeff Stein, president of Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti Foundation, engaged in the continuing design and construction of the urban laboratory Arcosanti in central Arizona
• Click here for extended comments from Jeff Stein on Barry's ideas, including those in The End of the World — Again.
THE END OF THE WORLD, AGAIN
“We’re going down no matter what.”
— Roland Emmerich, director of 2012
“If the world ended and all the suffering and longing disappeared in a flash, I’m likely to press the button myself.”
— Lars von Trier, director of Melancholia
“Imagine the amazing good fortune of the generation that gets to see the end of the world. This is as marvellous as being there at the beginning.”
— Jean Baudrillard
Opening Passage of the Book:
Will the end of the world happen on December 21, 2012 or any other prophetic date in the future?
Our global media environments provide three possible answers: 1) The end of the world will happen, 2) the end of the world will not happen, 3) the end of the world has already happened — or, more precisely, the end of “the known world” has happened. It’s the end of a world we thought we knew, forcing us to confront a new world and worldview that many find terrifying and devoid of meaning.
The first answer is one of "prophecy," the second of science, and the third of philosophy and cosmology. These apocalyptic visions have been shaped by movies, media technology, and the void in cosmic meaning.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Three Possibilities for the Apocalypse
2. Media Technology and the Void in Cosmic Meaning
2.1 The Medium Is the Apocalypse
2.2 Cosmic Media and Social Media
2.3 Electric Light: We Are Not the Center of the Universe, But We Can Pretend We Are
2.4 The Void in Cosmic Meaning
3. Memes and Apocalypses
3.1 From Meme to Metameme
3.2 Memes, Truth, Freedom, and Criticism
4. The End of the World Will Happen
4.1 What Are the Survival Advantages of the Mayan and Apocalyptic Memes?
• “What If” Scenarios: Ends and Beginnings
• Fear of the Future/No Future
• Transformation of Consciousness
• The Clean Slate
• Cosmic Suicide or Cosmic Murder
• Experience the Awe and Terror of the Sublime
• Cosmic Significance
5. The End of the World Will Not Happen
5.1 The Maya Never Prophesied the End of the World in 2012
5.2 Mayan Time Is Deep Time — Very Deep
5.3 Prophecies Can Be Self-Fulfilling: The Apocalypse and America in the New World
5.4 Genesis and Revelation: To Prevent the End of the World, We Must Understand the Beginning of the World
5.5 Prediction and Prophecy
5.6 It’s Easy to Predict Apocalypses, As Long As They Aren’t Too Specific
5.7 Note to Maureen Dowd about Cosmophobia: The End of the World Is Scientifically Impossible — At Least Until Far into the Future
6. The End of the World Has Already Happened
6.1 The New Known World: A Vast and Expanding Universe
• The Expanding Universe
• Spaceship Earth
• The End of the Universe
6.2 Woody Allen’s Apocalyptic Prediction: You Will Die, Along with the Universe
6.3 Stephen Hawking Says, “Philosophy Is Dead”
6.4 Seeing Earthrise
6.5 Apollo 8, Television, and the Philosophical Apocalypse
6.6 Apollo 11, Middle Americans, “Space Oddity,” and the Year 2525
6.7 The Apollo Moment: The Only Time We Were United in Celebrating Human Achievement
6.8 Cosmic Doublethink and the “Dual System of Astronomy”
6.9 Outer Space Countered by Cyberspace: “The Mother of All Demos”
6.10 The Future: Hoax and Shock
• Hollywood Future Shock
6.11 Our Calendars Say 2012, But Have We Entered the New Millennium?
• The Good News
• The Bad News
7. Postmillennial Apocalypses
7.1 007 and the War Apocalypse
7.2 Žižek, Financial Mass Destruction, and the Spectacle of the Economic Apocalypses
• Derivatives, Debt, Spectacle, Supersized Consumption, and Creationist Capitalism
7.3 Baudrillard and the Virtual Apocalypse
7.4 Singularities and the Digital Apocalypse
7.5 Gaia and the Ecological Apocalypse
7.6 Limits to Growth and the Resource Apocalypse
7.7 Population Zero and the Human Apocalypse
7.8 The Wild State and the Zombie Apocalypse
7.9 The Universe and the Cosmic Apocalypse
7.10 Melancholia and the Philosophical Apocalypse
7.11 2012 and the Cosmic-Philosophical Apocalypses
7.12 Chaos Theory and the Apocalypse
• The Role of Feedback in Apocalyptic Scenarios
• Strange Attractors and Sudden Apocalypses
• Catastrophic Chaos and Hurricane Katrina
• Chaos and the End of the World
8. An Apocalypse for Every Destiny
8.1 Tribes and Wars
8.2 Theisms and Revelation
8.3 Technology and Its Many Apocalypses
8.4 Ecology, Nature, and the Human Apocalypse
8.5 The Big Bang and the Void in Meaning
8.6 A Cosmic Code for Behavior?
9. Is There Cosmic Meaning for Our Existence?
9.1 President Kennedy, Marshall McLuhan, and the New Knowledge of the Universe
9.2 Neither Gods Nor Fools
9.3 Should Extraterrestrials Annihilate Us?
9.4 Should the Cosmos Annihilate Us?
9.5 Facing the Philosophical Apocalypse
• Imagine Living on the Pale Blue Dot
• Wandering Stardust
9.6 Does Being at the Center of Nothing Have Meaning for Our Culture?
• Expanding Nothingnesses in the Cosmos and the Human Condition
• Fearing and Filling the Voids
9.7 The End