The strict definition, from ancient Christian and Jewish texts, means God’s intervention against the evil of mankind, an “imminent cosmic cataclysm,” the “final judgment,” end of the world, the collapse of civilization, etc. Apocalypse is always meant as a prophetic revelation rather than a reflection of the past. Synonyms include “Armageddon,” “disaster,” “calamity,” etc.
Thus far, in the over 6,000 years of recorded history, there has never been a true “apocalypse” by the strict and theological meaning. Debacles there have been, and many, coupled with the collapse of whole civilizations, defeats on grand scales, and man-made and natural disasters.
There is probably no time in recorded history that has not experienced some sort of event that approached the meaning, but none either theological or definitive. Does today’s “Pandemic” conform to the definition? Answer: Not even close! Somehow, there is a universal conviction that the Pandemic, one, will end and, second, that it does not mean the “end.”
If there is Hope, there is no Apocalypse. And there has always been Hope.
But, conversely, in the American political “climate” today (or “culture”), is it fair to define the ruling “atmosphere” as approaching an “Apocalyptic” level? Certainly not on the level of theology, as today’s American society is far removed from the Christian-based culture of the nineteenth century.
Nor is the U.S. united on any single theme that would corral all the separate parts together as One. But in the divisions that have arisen in the past several years, there has emerged an “Apocalyptic” interpretation of the future that, minus the theology, closely conforms to something that we can all appreciate as meaning “The End.” In this connection, the new target of the ancient word “Apocalypse” is “Democracy.” Without qualification, nor apology, if one conviction unites all sides of today’s political culture, it is the word “Final,” and “Final” is but another meaning of “The End,” i.e., “Apocalypse.”
There is no dismissing this stark reality: it is encompassing, enveloping, and universal (to cite “entry” words). Nor am I being judgmental. Just descriptive.
The fundamental issue between the sides has become much deeper than “party loyalty” versus the essential interpretation of the word “American,” its past content, and future ambitions. As in “Final Judgment,” it identifies the core meaning of man-on-earth, specifically “American Man, American Earth.” Translated into politics, this means “Democracy,” and especially that word as practiced (or not) by Americans from the beginning to now.
Prior to recent times, the word was normally applied (usually subconsciously) to events that went far beyond typical party and political manipulations. A “nuclear holocaust” from the spread of nuclear weapons and the more doctrinaire side of the environmental movement both represent “apocalyptic” visions of the end of humanity. Neither of these visions has yet to appear on the human scene, and both remain unlikely. Still, that reality does not rule out the possibility that, sometime in the future, a time when no one on earth has foreseen, our earth might yet collapse from either a man-made or climatic Finality.
But as expressed by the news media and political/academic class, the challenge today is purely political. This remains central to the future visions from both the political Left and Right. This “cultural reality” was recently expressed best by Fox News commentator Mark Levin, whose book American Marxism (2021) predicts “The End” coming from European thought (Karl Marx):
“The counterrevolution to the American Revolution is in full force. And it can no longer be dismissed or ignored, for it is devouring our society and culture, swirling around our everyday lives, and ubiquitous in our politics, schools, media and entertainment.”
From a similar perspective, former Nixon speechwriter and presidential candidate, Patrick J. Buchanan, has noted in his The Death of the West (2002) that the basic causation of the “end” of Western civilization is demographic decline:
“As a growing population has long been a mark of healthy nations and rising civilizations, falling populations have been a sign of nations and civilizations in decline. If that holds true, Western civilization … is in critical condition. For, like the Cheshire Cat, the people of the West have begun to fade away.”
From totally opposite perspectives, the political Left notes “Apocalypse” coming from within society itself but arrives at nearly identical conclusions as to The End. The end of democracy, from this position, is inherent inside the country and, indeed, can be attributed to the personality of even single individuals, Donald Trump in particular.
Like the earlier case (above), it remains true that individuals, as opposed to movements, can, indeed, ruin civilizations. This may, as well, occur again, but, like an environmental collapse, it remains far-fetched but politically attractive. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Napoleon did their best in this regard, but civilization, somehow, has apparently survived (so far).
The Washington Post, among a host of media and political allies, is most “outspoken” in this perspective. Since the 2016 election, the Post has printed “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on the top of page one of each and every edition, night and day, weekdays and weekends. Next would be The New York Times, with its “1619 Project,” to remind Americans that July 4 is a phony birth date and that slavery, not Liberty, has defined the country, which is entitled to a new “Beginning,” with an End to the “Old.”
As Mark Levin (above) has written, the message of “Apocalypse” has dominated almost all aspects of U.S. society since but is rarely identified in name. The Post’s Pulitzer-winning analyst, Carlos Lozada, has reminded us exactly how deep the divisions go. “To glimpse the coming dismemberment of the United States of America,” he wrote (January 9, 2022), “just stop by your local bookstore.” He then reviewed several books with similar themes: How Civil Wars Start, Divided We Fall, American War, and The Next Civil War.
These are not hopeful times, but is all hope gone?
If it is, then Apocalypse is upon us.
PS. The great conservative writer, James Burnham, wrote Suicide of the West, which predicted the coming demise of Liberty, Democracy, and the American Way.
The year was 1964, long before a former Hollywood actor then President announced “Morning in America.” Nobody proclaimed Apocalypse for the Soviet Union. It took less than a decade!
I was there!