Is it possible universal fears of Armageddon change over time?
I’ve been traveling the past few days and taking the opportunity to visit with friends and acquaintances with whom I don’t get to associate on a regular basis.
Strangely, after chatting about kids and jobs, many discussions have veered into talk of doomsday.
(Maybe it’s me that’s obsessed with doomsday, not my friends, so this phenomena might not be strange as much as I’m making fertile ground for such talk. Let’s just state, for the record, that I believe change is constant and doomsday in some form is not only possible but inevitable. Remember the Roman Empire? They were once the world’s superpower and look where they are now — the stuff of Hollywood. Even their numbering system has been reduced to trivia questions. What is D + MIV?)
In any case, the theories on the end of the world or, at least, the end of America that I’ve heard in the past few days include: currency devaluation, governmental debt, political discord, the end of Big Oil, zombies (go figure, he’s a fan of “Walking Dead”) and yeti terrorism.
OK, I made that last one up. My nephews are obsessed with Big Foot so they’re the only ones terrorized by tall, hairy cyphers.
No one I’ve chatted with is afraid of a worldwide contagion (unless it causes zombie-ness) but let’s add that to contemporary doomsday fears.
Interestingly, I ran across a relevant program during a visit yesterday to the local historical society. The typewritten program was for a high school symposium in 1970 titled “Society Today … Tomorrow?”
Note the ominous addition of the question mark at the end.
Among the discussion groups outlined in the program was “The People Crisis: After 200,000,000 … What?”
At first, I thought 200 million was a reference to the worldwide population. In fact, 3.7 billion human beings populated the earth in 1970.
Instead, the discussion group pondering our future in 1970 was discussing the U.S. population which had just crossed the arbitrary “200 million” mark in 1968, and China has just begun “encouraging” its citizens to have only two children per family.
My mother said she remembers this was a hot topic in schools during that time frame (she was a high school teacher in the ’60s and distinctly recalls students coming to class braless, gasp, so overpopulation wasn’t the only hot topic back then). In fact, when she became unexpectedly pregnant with my brother (her third child), she felt guilty for contributing to this serious societal concern.
Overpopulation is less “hot” today — shall we say lukewarm? One of the conversations I was party to this week centered around the continuing wisdom of investing in farmland which can be used to grow food for the world’s growing population. Google “is the United States overpopulated?” and the top two returns in order are “The United States is already overpopulated” and “Overpopulation is NOT the problem.” (“The United States is already overpopulated” brings you to the webpage for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, so consider the source.)
For the record, 313 million people live in the United States today. I would side with the “overpopulation is NOT the problem” camp if I had to choose.
Ultimately, that program from the symposium in 1970 comforts me. If overpopulation was the end-du-jour of the world and now ranks a distant 10 or 12, then surely today’s Washington gridlock will someday (soon) be the stuff of historical documents.
Unless the U.S. debt gets us first.