Why does modern man always think about the end of the world: an essay

There is a wonderful scene in Stanley Kubrick’s film “Doctor Strangelove, ” where Major J.T. “King” Kong, played by Slim Pickens, parses the contents of the post-nuclear emergency kit assigned to the pilot. There are weapons and ammunition, food rations and antibiotics. Further - more: morphine, vitamins, stimulants, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, one Russian phrasebook and the Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one condom; three lipsticks; three pairs of nylon stockings. Kong comments: “Damn, with such a set, a guy could have had a great weekend in Vegas.”

Nowadays, an emergency kit is called an alarming suitcase, or PM. There is a whole industry whose task is to tell what needs to be put in a PM: a radio, a means for lighting a fire, water filters, and a professional slingshot.

I don’t have an alarming suitcase on hand. I live in Manhattan. Like most Manhattans, I am a fatalist. When the Tsar bomb - 58 megatons - falls to midtown, there will be only hope that everything will end quickly.

Nevertheless, recently I began to think about whether it was time to get PM. It seems to me all the less likely that when the end does come, it will be accompanied by a deadly flash and a deafening roar. Forget about Kim Jong-un and his uncontrolled missiles. There are many other highly likely scenarios. Pandemics, for example. Economic crisis. Or maybe the electricity will be cut off from the electromagnetic pulse. Or television presenter Art Bell, this nocturnal spellcaster, will be right, and aliens will land in Taos, New Mexico.

Most of us like to think before going to bed about what the end will be. As the founder of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, said, "the premonition of the apocalypse dies in the heart of the last." I grew up a Catholic, and the idea that I should always be ready for the inevitable ascension, firmly stuck in my head. My mother added fuel to the fire, taking me, a seven-year-old, to watch a crazy movie called Former Great Planet Earth, filmed by Hal Lindsay's bestselling book. Under the voice-over commentary of Lindsay and Orson Welles himself, the film combines biblical prophecy (“the end is near” (1 Peter, 4: 7) with a chronicle of floods, hurricanes and rocket attacks, and all this with sinister music like the one that sounded on Fox News whenever they showed Barack Obama, the movie scared me to death, but couldn't make me a Republican.

The so-called Doomsday Clock, launched in 1947 and periodically appearing on the cover of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, now has an apocalypse for two minutes - so close to midnight the minute hand came a second time in all time (the first time - in 1953, after the USA and the USSR tested the hydrogen bomb). Donald Trump pulled America out of the Paris climate agreement at a time when permafrost is melting, when the record high temperature has been recorded for the last four years in the history of observations, when butterflies disappear, the number of animals decreased by 60 percent. David Attenborough, a British naturalist, came to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January and announced that people had caused so much radical damage to the environment that the Holocene era (“a period of climatic stability that lasted 12 thousand years and allowed people to lead a settled lifestyle and create civilization ") - is over. "Now humanity lives in the anthropocene - the era of people." And he added: "We are destroying nature, and with it ourselves, too." As if the Lord God, tired of his game, wiped the blackboard from the table and left.

At times I try to avoid these facts, like a dentist trying not to hurt a nerve. As Zadie Smith noted, “It's hard to keep the apocalypse in mind all the time, especially if you want to get out of bed in the morning.” But sometimes I don’t get out of bed at all. I sit among the pillows and look at the gas mask that my employer of The New York Times gave me, like all my employees, shortly after the events of September 11th. This gas mask - I keep it on a shelf by the bed - should be equipped with replaceable filters for a nuclear and chemical attack. But I have only one. My main apocalyptic nightmare is that I can not do anything for my wife and children. It is the feeling of one's own helplessness, no doubt, that motivates many who are expecting the end of the world to prepare for it. PM may not prolong life for long, but it will give you time to say goodbye to your family by the fire.

Last year, on assignment from Esquire magazine, I visited the clairvoyant in Kassadag, Florida. She looked into my eyes and said that soon I would begin to prepare for the end of the world. The next day I was sitting in a hotel and reading the monstrous nasty things that Trump tweeted, and suddenly realized that thanks to this woman I would at least know what it feels like to prepare for the apocalypse. I bought Jim Cobb's Survival Guide for the End of the World. Far I have not advanced. There is a limit to how many pages I can read about how to build a hut from improvised materials. But Cobb's warnings about a potential shortage of drugs make me keep fit. I can’t argue with Cobb’s claim that corpses should be removed. “Leaving corpses in the streets is not only dangerous to health, ” he writes. “This has a very negative effect on people's morale.”


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