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Rant #22
(published January 11, 2001)
That Was One Boring Apocalypse
by Gordon Smith

The true horror of the year 2000 was not its failure to produce the end of the world. The world did end, on schedule: 12:00am Eastern Standard Time A.D. 2000. I, for my part, was standing near the Washington Monument, which lit up with flame like the very Sword of God, and then ejected a pitiful shower of fireworks and then sagged into darkness, spent. There was not so much as a flicker in the streetlamps, not as much as one shot fired into a crowd, no bombs, no terror, nothing. Light and smoke and life goes on. I held out hope, a few hours later, when I needed to get cab fare from an ATM, that the machine would send a current through my card, up my arm and cook me where I stood, sending the hipper-than-thou patrons of the bar I was in scampering for the doors. No luck. All I got was a few worn 20's. Life goes on, even after the end of the world. That's the true horror of the year 2000.

We know now that there is nothing to look forward to. There is no hope. Sure, back in 1999, a few avid academics and natty naysayers told us that 2000 would be meaningless. Not the millennium, really, since there was no year 0; not the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of Christ, since the Medieval scholar who fixed the dates didn't have all the relevant information at his disposal to make the calculation. In spite of that, the Y2K bug seemed like it might come through in the end and scramble our collective electronic brain, launch missiles, down planes. We might have been gloriously hoist on our own petard, bested by the technology we had created while the Amish had a good, long laugh. There was a hope, a deep, dark hope that there would be a chance, a slight chance for a good, solid Apocalypse, a final Twilight: one that we could be proud of, a swansong for a wasted world.

All of which just shows how committed Americans are to depression as a mode of being.

Yes, the embarrassing light of the year 2000 (as seen on TV! Mention this ad and receive 20% off!) illuminated the ends of significance, in a hyper-signified way: 2000 is the most significantly insignificant moment of all time. All time, mind you: much as Titanic is the top-grossing film of all time. The meaningless honorific that begs the question: is Titanic the top-grossing film of the 30 Years War? Do all things lose their moorings in time like this and extend backward over the whole of time, or only the most extreme, the most banal, the most vacant, like Titanic, or 2000? (Am I the greatest Gordon L. Smith of all time? I think I may just be...)

And fine, 2000 eliminated the possibility of God. Nietzsche presided over a fun little funeral for the Deity, but 2000 came and God's life itself suddenly appeared as virtual as that photo you may have seen of me on the internet with my throbbing, massive, 18 inch cock. Because no God could have ever been if we are all still here, blaspheming and dreaming of a future. He would have taken matters into his own hands, like a rogue cop in a Stallone movie, and wiped us all out. Especially since the whole world was watching, waiting, searching for a sign, hoping to believe...Or fine, if God survived 2000 in some form, He is infinite love, infinite peace, and infinite stinginess. How easy it would have been, such a small gesture that would have meant so much, the Scourging of the World. But He withheld his love, turned His back on us...Now, even if more conscientious fingers rest on the nuclear button in the future, then any final solution to the problem of mankind will just be a mistake, an act of man, small and finite. No, God could only show his mushroom-cloud smile at a supreme moment like 2000. Or else God is a coward, too shy to show either his love or his hate, and that's more than blasphemy, that's simply unthinkable...

And sure, 2000 proved that the Future Is Now! (By extension, thus, Now Is Yesterday! The present has had all its potential squeezed out into the anterior anterooms of history.) And until we can conceive of a future beyond the future-that-is-now, we have lost the hope of a future. It is here, now, actualized before it has a chance to become. Witness for example this past election. It was an unprecedented muddle. And before any of its many twists and turns, no one could escape the fact that we were witnessing "history in the making." I am reminded of the many shots of microphone banks where someone would 'soon be making an announcement,' and the lingering shots afterward of where the announcement took place: the substance of the announcement itself as insubstantial as the electromagnetic waves that carry it. And, like the year 2000, the election was hailed as a terrible threat, the horror of a divisiveness that must be healed, an outpouring of SOMETHING, an energy, that could consume us all, as if somehow this would be the start of another Civil War. But no, obviously not. We just needed to pretend it might be so so that the decision would matter at all. But as the year 2000 has taught us, nothing CAN matter anymore...

Jean Baudrillard wrote about all this nonsense years ago in France. He hailed 2000 as the Illusion of the End, and, as such, was one of the most vocal in proclaiming that 2000 would be 'the end of history in the making.' Baudrillard, though, celebrates the cosmic joke of history in all its forms, and the glory of living in a world where all forms of things become viral, losing all bounds, all limit in time or space. The pure potential of never ending, the pure fun and joy of the infinite. Now in America, we cower and shake and cling to conflicting illusions: the Apocalypse somehow bypassed us (phew!); things are still meaningful. They cannot both be true. And, in fact, neither is. The Apocalypse happened and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. But rather than be weighed down by the weight of all this nothingness—this non-existent future, our rapidly dissolving past, and a present that is a poor neglected middle child—we can now enter a new millennium purged of our self-important, self-aggrandizing illusions. We can look into the crystal ball, and stand mesmerized by the inverted, distorted, downright funky image of ourselves reflected there...and then laugh out loud.

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