Guest blogger Vincent Williams: The end of the world... yawn

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The world is looking like it’s about to end at any moment, there’s no zeitgeist that seems to suggest anyone is that worried. What’s the deal with that?

And now, there’s an earthquake in China. I swear, I keep starting this entry about something else happens to make me change my first paragraph. When Costco put the kibosh on how much rice you could buy, I did notice that there wasn’t rioting in the streets but I actually got the idea last week, after the Apiary Inspectors of America released a report revealing that one third of the nation’s honey bees have died. And, considering how much food is grown as a direct result of the honeybees, that’s big stuff. Still, no one’s really said much. Then there are the crazy tornados and hurricanes rolling through the country and, now, as I write this, there’s been some kind of Biblically proportioned earthquake in China.

So, with bees, hurricanes and rice, am I the only one that’s noticed that folks are a little nonchalant? It’s not like we can’t get worked up over things; just look at the Democratic primaries. But, on the matter of, frankly, the world is looking like it’s about to end at any moment, there’s no zeitgeist that seems to suggest anyone is that worried. What’s the deal with that?

Personally, I blame Thundarr the Barbarian. No, really, hear me out. First of all, for those of you who don’t make cultural and political observations based on your knowledge of obscure Saturday morning cartoons, Thundarr the Barbarian was a cartoon that ran from 1980–1984 whose title character had adventures on a post-apocalyptic Earth with his companions Ookla the Mook and Princess Ariel. Here’s the thing though: The show explained the aforementioned post-apocalyptic setting in the opening credits when a meteor causes some type of environmental shift that kills most of the population of the planet. Yes, you read that right, in the opening credits of a children’s program, over five billion people die horribly in floods and fire and lightning!

But that was the eighties. Some critics want to act like its 20/20 hindsight but there were puh-lenty of folks who felt our president was a madman and that, at any moment, he was capable of launching nuclear missiles at someone. Look, even people who liked Ronald Reagan knew that we were dealing with a man who had no problem unleashing nuclear destruction on our enemies, even if it probably meant that they would destroy us too. We all figured it was just a matter of time before the world, as we knew it, was going to end.

And the popular culture bore this feeling out. The Mad Max trilogy, Escape from New York, The Day After, those bizarre Beastmaster movies — there was a whole cottage industry of post-apocalyptic movies and television shows that dominated the popular landscape. Again, the subject was so prevalent that there was a successful children’s program based on the premise that the most exciting adventures can occur after everyone you know and love is killed in a world-altering calamity.

Twenty-five years later, all of the kids who watched this stuff are adults and a bunch of the adults who remember what the eighties were like are still around. So, y’know, earthquakes and hurricanes and missing bees are something to be concerned about. But, when you’re talking to a group of people that remember Mel Gibson in a loincloth and the head of the Statue of Liberty in the street, frankly, it’s going to take a little bit more than that to get us worked up.