You might be asking yourself how it is that I came to be so obsessed with post-apocalyptic fiction and imagery. The answer is simple. I used to dream of revolution, but after a couple years I became very, very disillusioned. I just can’t believe we’re going to make it. I can’t believe that a revolution that could save us from this shit storm (environmentally, politically, etc) is possible, that we could pull it off without being slaughtered, every one, by the government strong arms. And if we did pull it off (whoever “we” are), would we be able to do so in such as way that we wouldn’t end up repeating all the same mistakes?
Forgive me for my lack of optimism.
The first time I heard the term “collapse” was in the work of Derrick Jensen. He spoke of an environmental collapse as the inevitable result of said shit storm. His logic made sense. Not only did it make sense, it gave me hope that there was a force in the world that could put a stop to a lot of the environmental devastation, among other things, that it didn’t rely on reaching a consensus at the coalition meeting. The world around us is not static. Every change inflicted results in further changes, like dominoes falling in line. The way it looks from here, those changes aren’t going to be too friendly for the like of humans or the like of our way of living up to now. But still, in the prospect of destruction, I saw hope, gruesome though that hope may be. See.
Then again, maybe I’m just a coward. Maybe the focus on collapse is a complete cop out.
My love of post apocalyptic imagery writhes in ambivalence. I want the apocalypse to come (by that I generally am thinking of the end of industrial civilization) because it breaks my heart into tiny little pieces thinking about all the creatures getting killed by human carelessness and stupidity on a daily basis. The idea that we could actually start fresh, without a painfully slow political process for change, is incredibly appealing. Yet I also don’t want it to come because, duh, I’ll be dead. As much as I like to daydream that I survive, the odds are against it. I live in a big city! I’m 30! I don’t know how to use any weapons! The odds really, really aren’t in my favor. That and I would probably never see all my America lovelies ever again. And yet, the imagery remains appealing, beautiful to me in a sorrowful way that is hard to put into words.
Dead Flag Blues by Godspeed You Black Emporer is the queen, the king—no fuck gendered words—the monarch of post-apocalyptic songs. It is devastatingly sad, yet beautiful in spite of itself. It is a song full of wringing hands and failure, corpses and flames. And yet love remains.
I’ve typed out the lyrics, for anyone who would rather read than listen…
The car is on fire and there is no driver at the wheel, and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides. And a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt, and we’re on so many drugs with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death. The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles.
It went like this:
The buildings tumbled in on themselves, mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair. The skyline was beautiful on fire all twisted metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze.
I said, “Kiss me, you’re beautiful. These are truly the last days.” You grabbed my hand and we fell into it, like a daydream or a fever.
We woke up one morning and fell a little further down for sure it’s the valley of death. I open up my wallet and it’s full of blood.