Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Albrecht Dürer with Qanon, China, the Coronavirus and a flaming earth over the horsemen’s faces. Image: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Albrecht Dürer

The Apocalyptic Mindset: Overhyped, Underhyped, Justhyped?

Whether based in reality, fantasy, or some combination of the two – no matter what your theological or political persuasion there is something to keep you up at night.

The concept of Overhyped, Underhyped, Justhyped? is that I will describe a trend, and then you vote on whether it is Overhyped, Underhyped, or Justhyped. Periodically, I’ll check in on the trend and share the voting results.

Monday morning, I saw the New York Times released a package aptly titled Postcards from a World on Fire.” Comprised of 193 stories, it’s a long scroll of graphs of average temperature sloping steeply up and to the right, fire, flooding, disappearing plants and animals, melting ice, mega-storms, refugees, bleached corals, rising seas, cobalt strip mines, dry wells, violent conflict. Reaching the end of the scroll, there is a short video that starts: Open your eyes, we have failed.”

And climate change is just one apocalypse on the menu. Pandemic. Chinese super nukes. A cabal of coastal elites conspiring to eat babies. Cardi B and the nation’s perceived moral decline. Zombies.

Predicting the end of the world has been a favorite past-time of humanity since time immemorial. Wikipedia has an extensive list of end of the world predictions, and we’re all still here to read about it. We may be living in unprecedented times, but where is the strategic value of the eschatological frame?

In a 2015 article, Melanie Randle and Richard Eckersly describe how people tend to respond to the perception of a threat in three ways: nihilism (we should enjoy what we have now and not worry about the future), fundamentalism (return to traditional values, a fight between good and evil), or activism (hope and transformation). The greater the perceived threat, the greater the nihilistic or fundamentalist response. Life under threat may also inspire us to see ourselves as part of a broader collective narrative of survival and resilience.

As you consider your vote, ask yourself: Does the apocalyptic mindset lead to paralysis, or catalyze transformation? Will the transformation advance sustainability and social justice, or will it be a retreat into walled gardens and resource hoarding?

December 13, 2021 Overhyped Underhyped Justhyped Trends Climate Change Apocalypse


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