ἔσχατον: The Movie
That’s the video from The Decemberists for their latest single “Calamity Song.” It’s based on the thermonuclear armageddon game devised by students at the Enfield Tennis Academy, which the students called “Eschaton” — from the New Testament term for the last day, the day of judgment.
That’s the source of the word “eschatology,” the branch of theology involving ultimate things and the end of the world. Both ultimate and end there in more than one sense of those words. (Of course, the term “eschaton” might be better known these days as the name of a sardonic blog about macroeconomics, Supertrains and the urban hell-hole of central Philly.)
All of which is to say that you really owe it to yourself to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest at some point.
I recommend the use of three bookmarks: one for the main text, one for the endnotes in the back of the book (which are not optional) and one for page 223, on which you will find a chronology of subsidized time — something you’ll likely need to consult from time to time, as it were.
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This is from the “Ask Dr. Ozzy” column:
Q: I’m worried that the world is falling apart. What should I stock my basement with in case things turn really bad?
A: If things take a really bad turn, how the [frak] can you be so sure you’ll still have a basement? Stop being so paranoid, man. If you think the world’s about to end — which it ain’t — you should be worrying about how much fun you can have before the [skata] hits the fan, not how you’ll survive when the beans run out and your gran turns into a zombie.
So my advice to the Tribulation Force is “flee to the mountains,” while Ozzy’s advice is “eat, drink and be merry.”
Those are two very different approaches, but we’re both quoting Matthew 24, and neither one of us is worried about putting the furniture into storage.
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Mike Lofgren also sounds like he’s channeling Jesus’ “mini-apocalypse” from Matthew’s Gospel. After 28 years as a respected congressional staffer — including 16 years staffing the Republican House and Senate Budget Committees — he is heading for the hills, leaving the Capitol behind and prophesying that “all will be thrown down” in the desolating sacrilege to come.
“Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult” unveils the accelerating decline of the Republican Party. Lofgren’s diagnosis is grim. His prescription is …
To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots. … But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.
It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired. …
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. …
Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some “other,” who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.
It is not clear to me how many GOP officeholders believe this reactionary and paranoid claptrap. I would bet that most do not. But they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base with a nod and a wink. …
It is the apocalyptic frame of reference of fundamentalists, their belief in an imminent Armageddon, that psychologically conditions them to steer this country into conflict, not only on foreign fields (some evangelicals thought Saddam was the Antichrist and therefore a suitable target for cruise missiles), but also in the realm of domestic political controversy. It is hardly surprising that the most adamant proponent of the view that there was no debt ceiling problem was Michele Bachmann, the darling of the fundamentalist right. What does it matter, anyway, if the country defaults? — we shall presently abide in the bosom of the Lord.
Some liberal writers have opined that the different socio-economic perspectives separating the “business” wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no fundamental disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far in that direction they want to take it. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age, the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. In any case, those consummate plutocrats, the Koch brothers, are pumping large sums of money into Michele Bachman’s presidential campaign, so one ought not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.