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  • Writer's pictureSean Parson

Uneven Apocalyptic Anxiousness: Nostalgia, Stranger Things, and the End of the Present

According to Fredric Jameson the current world is marked by the fact that we live in a “…pure present without a past or future” This present tense sense of the modern world is not because a past and a future do not exist, but because the postmodern cultural tools of advanced capitalism have constructed a fiction of an always repeating present and we, as media and cultural consumers, devour this timeless fiction. Of course, as any consumer of culture know, films, television, and books regularly rely on historically rooted stories—from period pieces, to nostalgic films, to science fiction—in the narrative structure, and tropes. But Jameson contends that these products are not about expressing or envisioning the future, per say, but about engaging with current anxieties, fears, and desires. The past and the future, in the post-modern moment, is a projection of the present.

The present-tense vision of postmodernity has always been threatened by the harsh realities of ecological limits and attempts to address historically situated atrocities, like slavery and native genocide, but commodification of time, as Guy Debord argues in Society of the Spectacle, make historical arguments nearly impossible. We consume and are consumed in the present and the past and the future are digestif’s to settle our stomachs. But the spectacle of comfortable consumption is increasingly breaking down as ecological limits, political corruptions, and harsh economic reality foreclose the dream of retirement, home ownership, or even paying back student loans While the Sex Pistols first screamed that there is “no future, no future for you” in the 1970s, the truth has only recently become clear. While apocalyptic fears and end of the world anxieties have existed in the past—such as the fear of nuclear holocaust during the cold war—the current versions of this anxiety seem to point at a break in the traditional understanding of time within the postmodern cultural theory. Nostalgia and futurism are shifting and changing as the catastrophic impacts of climate change have begun to appear unevenly in the present but seemingly universally on the horizon. The past, carbon emissions, and the future, ecological catastrophe, are collapsing onto the future. But the cultural response to these changes is not universal. Social and political positioning seems to impact the ways in which we, as a society, engage with the potential end of our “current way of life.”

In this article, I argue that the nostalgic turn towards the 1980s—both for directorial influence and for setting—in contemporary science fiction, best exemplified by Stranger Things is actually a projection of anxiety and of a perceived impending catastrophe existing on the horizon. The 1980s nostalgia of Stranger Things represents a white suburban (or newly urbanized) anxiety of the future world without us project backwards to the 1980s.

Part 1: The Politics of Nostalgia and Futurism

Walter Benjamin wrote “The work of memory collapses time.” The future is the accrued collected debris of history and our memory of the past is, always, a retelling. A fiction. The power of the past, of the narratives that define our collective direction, is coming into direct conflict with the warnings of the future. Climate scientists have, for decades now, warned of the future catastrophe of climate change, but new research is showing that those impacts are starting sooner than predicted, and the doom of the future, seems to be a central aspect of contemporary American political and media culture. To understand the ways in which the past, and the future, are being political mobilized, this section will start by exploring the academic work and discussions around the concept of nostalgia, focusing on Fredric Jameson engagement on “Nostalgia for the present” and Svetlana Boym’s “Restorative” and “reflective” version of nostalgia.

Fredric Jameson, in Postmodernism or, the cultural logic of late capitalism (1992) developed a theory of how nostalgia functions within the postmodern era-which he defines through its use of pastiche and its reliance on historicity. In his work, Jameson contends that nostalgia plays an important role in postmodern politics, as a form of pacifying the present through a consumerist consumption of a mythical past. As he writes, “Historicity is, in fact, neither a representation of the past nor a representation of the future (although its various forms use such representations): it can first and foremost be defined as a perception of the present as history; that is, as a relationship to the present which somehow defamiliarizes it and allows us that distance from immediacy which is at length characterized as a historical perspective” (Jameson 1992: 284). In effect, the nostalgic film or literary work, constructs an image of the past that is rooted in the concerns of the present; often as a way of displacing the cultural anxieties of the present and instead producing a mythical past based on a sense of security, wonder, and happiness. Expressing this he states that “For it is by way of so-called nostalgia films that some properly allegorical processing of the past becomes possible: it is because the formal apparatus of nostalgia films has trained us to consume the past in the form of glossy images that new and more complex “postnostalgia” statements and forms become possible” (Jameson 1992: 287). This consumption of the glossy past means that the narratives of nostalgia are not meant to unsettle but to comfort, to provide a sense of order and balance to us, in the present. He notes that, for the 1980s, this nostalgic turn was to the 1950s, where visions of the small newly suburban small town came to define the quintessential happy and safe life of the time. This focus on the small autonomous town helps displace the current anxiety around the expansion of global economic markets and the decreasing power of the local in relation to the global. In effect, nostalgia is always rooted in class politics and class anxiety. As pressure increase on “the middle class” nostalgic images of the idealized past provide both a political vision of the future and a comfort. In addition, as many have noted, this nostalgic turn to the past is often rooted in a white supremacist imagination of white picket fences and white faces. With race and class being so intertwined in the American experience, the racial dimension of nostalgia is essential.

The logic of nostalgia, to Jameson, is also linked to the narrative of anxiety around the future that typifies contemporary science fiction. He writes that:

If catastrophic “near-future” visions of, say, overpopulation, famine, and anarchic violence are no longer as effective as they were a few years ago, the weakening of those effects and of the narrative forms that were designed to produce them is not necessarily due only to overfamiliarity and overexposure; or rather, this last is perhaps also to be seen as a modification in our relationship to those imaginary near futures, which no longer strike us with the horror of otherness and radical difference. (Jameson 1992, 285-286)

In other words, the constant reliance of tropes of overpopulation, famine, and the breakdown of social order, as the only vision of the future offered, combined with a mythical nostalgic past, means that, in the postmodern era, that the past and the future are both foreclosed and held hostage to the present. Or as he says it: “what is implied is simply an ultimate historicist breakdown in which we can no longer imagine the future at all, under any form- Utopian or catastrophic” (Jameson 1992, 286). Thus, the role of nostalgia is part of a broader, historicity project that is designed to pull politics into an endless present, devoid of utopia, or catastrophic futures; to naturalize the here and now and copy and paste that into the future.

In contrast to the more cultural studies and theoretical work for Jameson, Svetlana Boym (2001) engages with the lived history of nostalgia as it functioned in soviet, and post-soviet cultures. In her analysis, nostalgia is a more nuanced and complicated concept that has a tendency to either promote a reactionary or liberatory impulse. The first tendency of nostalgia, she refers to as restorative. This version of nostalgia, which seems to be the foundational basis of nationalist myth making does not often view itself as nostalgia but, instead, as an assertion of truth and fact. This is a form of nostalgia that “rebuilds monuments” (p. 41). At the core of this approach is an attempt to invent a historical tradition that serves the purpose of the present. This form of nostalgia is not “…a creation ex-nihilo or a pure act of social constructivism; rather, it builds on the sense of loss of community and cohesion and offers a comforting collective script for individual longing” (Boym 2001: 42). In constructing national myth and narratives, often through the embrace of conspiratorial anxiety around the “lose” of greatness of a nation, this approach to nostalgia, inherently, uses the past as a reactionary device for present politics.

The second tendency, what Boym calls, reflective nostalgia, is on that “…lingers on ruins, the patina of time and history, in the dreams of another place and time” (Boym 2001: 41). This approach to nostalgia is not about national myths but collective memory. Boym writes that, “Re-flection suggests new flexibility, not the re-establishment of stasis. The focus here is not on recovery of what is perceived to be absolute truth but on the meditation of history and time” (Boym 2001: 49). This form of nostalgia is less collective and more individualistic in its assertion then restorative nostalgia; is more playful and ironic; and built upon narratives of pastiche. In effect, this is a similar description of what Jameson means by postmodern nostalgia, which is rooted in pastiche and historicity, but unlike Jameson Boym contends that this version of nostalgia is not inherently pacifying but is an assertion that critical thinking and longing can be interwoven.

For this paper, these two different thinkers and their understanding of nostalgia is, maybe sacrilegiously, going to be combined and flattened together, with pieces of both erupting from the crushed corpse left in the wake. Nostalgia, here, will be understood as a projection of contemporary social and political values and anxieties backwards in time, but unlike Jameson, nostalgia (or any temporal politics) is not about foreclosing engagement with the future, it will be understood as having both a reactionary (reconstructive) tendency that re-inscribes the inequalities and social power of the present, while also opening up space for critical engagement and irony that allows for an unraveling of the contemporary social and political relationships. This dialectical struggle in nostalgia between reactionary and critical tendencies develops a much more complex and nuanced political project then the critical theory influenced analysis often found within Jameson.

Part 2: Stranger Things and White Anxiety of the World Without Us

            While Hollywood has, from its beginning, exploited nostalgic images and settings—from Birth of a Nations glorifying reimaging of the birth of the KKK to Back to the Futures longing for small town 1950s life—over the last few years we have seen a unique strand of nostalgia emerging. Shows like Stranger Things have begun to look back to the 1980s by collapsing the nostalgia for the time period with a nostalgic desire to replicate a specific directorial form, in this case pastiche homage of early Spielberg, Carpenter, and other 1980s science fiction and horror directors with the long standing “child adventure” genre, typified by Goonies and Stand by Me. While previous attempts to Hollywood nostalgia have often looked to retell a comforting story of a lost past, filled with security and simplicity, as a panacea (or contrast) to the complexity and shifting social terrain of the present; the new turn to sci-fi horror nostalgia, looks back to the 1980s and, while creating a rose-colored view of certain aspects of the 1980s, also places horror, danger, and possible annihilation, not security and comfort, at the core of the decade. This is not a nostalgia that is meant to only make us longingly look back to the past, but on that is doing something much more.

While, most analysis of the nostalgic politics of Stranger Things have argued, like Myke Bartlett that, “it feeds the sort of backwards-looking resentment currently driving nationalist movements across the globe. When Trump promised to ‘Make America Great Again’, he was referring to that ‘national history’ that doesn’t (and never did) exist” in this section I argue that, this series is also about projecting a contemporary anxiety of climate change, social dislocation, and political collapse. In this instance, the nostalgic politics of Stranger Things takes this future anxiety and pushes it to the past, using the temporal shift of postmodernism to blend future, present, and past. Instead of imagining life in the future as a “world without us,” to borrow a concept by Eugene Thacker, the series explores our future struggle with an indifferent, destructive, and hostile nature by linking it to a nostalgic past. Like most nostalgia this series “…brings comfort when the present offers little” but it does so in a way does not embrace a reactionary and conservative politics of the past, but instead places the horror of the future in the past actions of the US State.

Stranger Things, the 2016, surprise hit for the streaming service Netflix, tells the story of a covert government conspiracy turned tragedy in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. The story begins when Will Byers disappears into another dimension, referred to as the “up-side-down” after playing Dungeons and Dragons with his close friends Dustin, Lucas, and Mike. Unknown to the group of kids, or Will’s mother, Joyce and brother Jonathan, Will’s disappearance is due to the actions of a cold-war era government experiment, which included the kidnapping and experimentation on children. This government experiment led to a monster, which the boys refer to as a Demogorgon—a powerful monster in Dungeons and Dragons—, escaping and hunting both Will in the upside down and other children in the real world. By accidentally meeting one of the escaped experimented children, Eleven, who just happens to have psychic powers as a result of the government testing, the group of boys and her work together with Will’s mother and brother, some fellow high school students—who lost a friend Barb to the monster—and the local Sheriff to track down Will and destroy the Demogorgon. The first season ends with Will being saved and the Demogorgon being destroyed, though seemingly through the self-sacrifice of Eleven, but the Will that returns has been corrupted by the Upside down and seems to flip back and forth between the two dimensions. The second season continues Will’s horrific journey and introduce a “shadow monster,” another being from the Upside down that is committed to invading and, seemingly, destroying life on our dimension. The monster, invades Will’s body, and once again the team, with the addition of Max—a new student in town who just moved from LA with her brother and stepmother—needs to come together to both safe Will, destroy the new monster, and this time close up the gate that links our world to the other dimension. While the second season ends on a seemingly high note, as all the kids get to experience their first boy-girl school dance and, for Will, Eleven, Lucas, and Max, their first kiss, a horror is lurking over this celebratory good time, as the Shadow monster is shown looming over the school from the upside down (see image 2).

Image 2: Shadow monster looking down at the school dance from the upside down

While most of the accounts of the series, and its use of nostalgia, have critically looked at the reimagining of life in the 1980s, highlighting the relatively progressive vision of race, gender, and homosexuality that exists within the core group, effectively erasing the legacy of structural injustice and bigotry from the 1980s, in this I want to focus on the “upside down.” The upside down, the other dimension that the government experiment opened up, is shown as a world that mirrors the structure of our world but seemingly exists without humans, but with the remnants of humans’ civilization (see image 3). The post-apocalyptic landscape of the upside down shows buildings, overtaken with fungal growth, tendrils of organic material, air filled with spore like pollen, and devoid of natural sun light (the scenes are all cast in a cold blue or an unnerving dark red). When discussing the upside down in season 1, episode 5 they describe the place as:

Mike: What was Will saying? “Like home… like home…” but dark? Lucas: And empty. Dustin: Empty and cold… wait, did he say cold?….. Mike: Upside down. When El showed us where Will was, she flipped the board over, remember? Upside down: dark, empty.

The upside down, while being an abandoned and inhospitable version of Hawkins, only has a few overlapping connections to the human dimension: lights, which flicker; the gate at the military base; \ the mental power of Eleven; and the Demogorgon, who can seemingly flip between the two.

Image 3: Image of Hawking, Indiana from the upside down

I contend that the upside down represents what Eugene Thacker calls “the world without us.” To Thacker there are three levels of perspective that one can take in understanding the world at large. The first, and most narrow, is the anthropocentric visions, or the “world with us,” it is the world that “we, as human beings, interpret and give meaning to, the world that we relate to our feel alienated from, the world that we are once apart of and also separate from humans” (Thacker 2011: 4). This world is not as sealed and solid as our cognitive frames would like to believe and regularly the creatures we share the world with; and the natural forces we have to live with; force a vulnerability, a biting back, against us. This is a reminder that the world with us, primarily lives in our minds, and that in reality, the world we live on—i.e., earth—has countless other creatures and forces—both living and not—within it. The decentered human world, is the “world within itself.” But, to Thacker, there is another world, a world that if we take a step further back into the cosmic, highlights the relative unimportance of the human. The universe, the cold and uncaring void, that our planet exists within has no concern about human life, and the actions of humans are insignificant and meaningless in the grand scheme of the cosmos. From the perspective of the world without us, human action is unnoticeable and when we cease to exist, when extinction sets in, the universe will not even notice the loss of our species. These three spaces—the world with us, is human centered, the focus is the self; the world in itself, focuses on the planet, a frame that understands the importance and impact of humans on the ecosystems but which also understands the limitations of human power; and the final frame, which takes the perspective of the cosmos, in which the earth, and all the living beings on it, are cosmically meaningless.

While, this might seem like an abstract perspective that has little importance for contemporary political debates, but the current scientific knowledge of climate science and the catastrophic potential of a six degree warming, which is within possibility by 2100; the complete lack, if not retrenchment, of international action by politicians; and the already existing impacts of climate change throughout the globe—from increased flooding and draughts, to powerful hurricanes and other extraordinary weather events has forced contemporary societies to, at least unconsciously, begin to think about the planet Earth existing without us.[1] The nihilistic humor of millennials, from the tide pod challenge to memes about the end of the world, highlight the ways in which, at least younger generations, are dealing with the possibility of extinction. The emotional anxiety of grappling with the implications of the world without us can then be seen as one a central source of existential ennui. For most of white America, the possibility of not mattering, of decentering their power, and the disintegration of the currently functioning world of us, is, correctly, seen as a catastrophe, if not necessarily an apocalypse.[2] I contend that the nostalgic placing of Stranger Things in the 1980s serves as a way of displacing the current anxiety of the future into a horrific narrative that is set in the past.

The location of the show, in both geography and time, is not inconsequential to the impact of the film on a political unconscious level. To begin with, the series takes place within the suburban, small town, of Hawkins Indiana. This focus on the small suburban town can be seen as a nostalgic appeal to small suburban life, but I contend that it has a more complicated and critical importance. By focusing on the suburbs, the film centers the source of the horror, in the primary location of white, middle-class, America. The suburb, a product of decades of US racial housing policies, not only decimated the urban core of most big cities, it also helped develop a conception of whiteness that, from the 1950s on, has defined the “American dream.” The fact that cast is primarily white, with the exception of Lucas and his family, has been a source of derision by critics, who feel the show has erased the racial dimension of the 1980s, but in reality, it helps bring the racial, and class aspects, forward. The suburb, as source of the horror is only contrasted by the few scenes of the show that take place in Cities, primarily the episode 7 in Season two in which Eleven meets her “sister” in the government experimentation, Kali Prasad (eight). The multi-racial punk rebels in the city, use the government given powers to “fight back” against the government agency, and the complicit doctors and staff that tortured children under the guise of national security. The city is a source of resistance against the government power; the suburb is the epicenter of the horror, it is a defensive place, where at best the horror can be kept under wraps for the time being.

In addition, by setting the show in 1983 the temporal cause of the horror is linked to the past, primarily the past actions of a conservative government, and the suicidal struggle that existed between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. While the real cause of climate change, or the Anthropocene, is much earlier—either starting during the nuclear era in the 1950s, or the development of industrial capitalism in the late 17th century—by locating the breach of the world without us in the pro-corporate, national security driven, politics of 1980s neo-conservatism, the show correctly places the blame on previous generations, not the current one, for the crisis. In addition, the show focuses on the short-term thinking and selfish behavior of the government officials for causing and exploiting the crisis, both for career and also nationalist reasons.

Finally, by making the primary victims of the series, children (both Will and Barb), it focuses on the generational violence of climate change. The show, which was especially popular with millennials, portrayed them (and future generations) in the characters of Will, Mike, Lucas, Winston, and Eleven. In doing so, they highlight that the action of their parents, and previous generations, will primarily impact them, while in addition, they are going to be the primary actors who have any chance to stop or slow down the horror.

Overall, the suburban 1980s location of Hawkins, places the story as being centered on white America and blaming the conservative, cold war, politics of the 1980s. In addition, the upside down, the horror at play, represents our current cultural anxiety of their existing a world without us that decenters the current world, destroying the social, political institutions of contemporary society.

Part 3: Anthropocene Monsters

While the primary existential horror in Stranger Things is about the world without us and the possibility of human extinction and the destruction of our current way of life, due to either ecological and political breakdown, the primary antagonists in the film, the Demogorgon, Demo-dogs, and the shadow monster all emerge from the upside down, but are themselves really “Anthropocene” monsters, or ecological monsters that symbolically, and often literally, represent the world fighting back against the human wrecked violence on the world. The Anthropocene monster has their legacy in two different horror genres. First, the 1970s eco-horror genres of the 1970s and 1980s, where ecological crisis lead to violent impacts on human society, but differ from that earlier genre in that monsters are not, toxins that cause zombification, but are embodied nature, given agency. Secondly, the cosmic horror of the Lovecraftian tradition, which decenters the importance of human, by showing beings that are nearly unstoppable and, violently, indifferent to human society. In addition, the Lovecraftian genre constructs a monstrous “other” whose cognitive process is completely non-human. The function of the Anthropocene monster, is linked to the idea of the world without us, and represents an anxiety of a force greater than us, that is both indifferent towards our continued existence.

The primary monster of the first season, the Demogorgon (see image 4), hunts Will throughout the upside down and terrorizes Hawkins before being defeated by Eleven. The Demogorgon, look resembles the visual motif of the upside down, with its cold colors, vine, fungus, moss, and vegetal quality. The monster, as shown has a bipedal body but with a head that resembles an open flower, but a flower filled with teeth. The vegetal quality of the monster, combined with the more traditional animalistic aspect, creates an unnerving hybrid creature that blurs the line between plants and animals, in much the same way that the image of the cyborg queers the borders between technological and biological. The blurring between plant and animal is made even more obvious in Season 2 when we are introduced to the Demo-dogs, the juvenile stage of development for the monster. This pre-adult stage shows a dog looking creature, which acts and seems to mimic dog behavior, which has the teethed flower head. Both stages of the monsters’ development, represents a hybrid nature monster that, relates to humans, not through animus or anger, but as a hunter stalking and searching out food. If monsters are meant to represent, in horror films, the primary source of anxiety, then the Demogorgon seems to represents an anxiety of a violent nature decentering and replacing humans, and highlighting the fragile position of “supremacy” we hold in the world.

Image 4: Demogorgon

In the second season the main monster is the Shadow Monster (see image 5). The shadow monster, which we never see outside of its silhouette, is a fog assemblage monster that seems to lack any formal physical structure. Unlike the Demogorgon, the shadow monster is not a revanchist animal/plant hybrid fighting back against human society, but a hive minded virus, seeking to expand, conquer, and control. In this season, the Shadow Monster, haunts Will—who randomly falls back into the upside down during his days—until he finally is able to capture and enter Will’s body. After entering Will, the Shadow Monster increasingly gains control over Will’s mind and body, working to undermine his friends as they try to save him, while also being a conduit that binds the Shadow Monster to this plane. While in the hospital at the security government research center, the doctors claim that the virus like nature of the Shadow Monster was increasingly swallowing up and control Will’s brain much like the zombie fungus that can control the mind and body of Ants. In addition to Will, the Shadow Monster, also appears to have some form of either control, or connection, to the Demo-dog and Demogorgon’s of the Up Side Down, making it the mastermind species, the elder god (in Lovecraftian language) that seeks to replace our world with the world without us.

In addition, to just conquering Will’s mind, the Shadow Monster is also building a network of tunnels throughout our world (see image 6), emerging from the breach underneath the government research center. The inside of these tunnels resembles the upside down, filled with fungal and tendril like plant growth, pollen and spores floating throughout the air, and a dark blue light drowning out all other lights. These tunnels flow throughout the town of Hawkins’ killing all organic plant life that uses the soil above it survive. The season begins with competing pumpkin farmers believing that their competitor is trying to poison their crops, while in reality the tunnels are built, and growing, slowly trying to take over the world with us, and replace it with the upside down.

The Shadow Monster in this season appears, not as a physically threatening Anthropocene monster, like the Demogorgon from Season one, but instead is a viral fear. The Shadow Monster’s viral qualities not only infected Will, taking over his mind and body, but nearly kills the Sheriff, who is hospitalized after contact with the spores, and also kills all organic plant life that uses soil near its tunnels. As a viral plague, the shadow monster represents the increasingly growing threat, due to the anthropocentric climatic changes, of expanding tropical disease ranges and, potentially, of long dormant ancient diseases being released from its cold arctic cocoon.

Image 5: Shadow Monster

Image 6: impact of shadow monster on the world

Overall, the threats posed in Stranger Things seasons 1 and 2 are Anthropocene monsters; monsters that represent, both symbolically but also aesthetically, ecological fears that are only growing do to climate change. The monsters in horror stories are often expressions of a cultural anxiety, or at least an anxiety to a sub-group of the population. In this case, the monsters of Stranger Things, represents the fear of a potential world without us. This fear is most commonly associated with cultural fear of catastrophic climate change, which has led to what E. Ann Caplan (2015) refers to as “pre-trauma.” This pre-trauma, and the anxiety around the world without us is not equally shared. The nostalgic motifs of the 1980s and the suburban setting help set the stage for what group’s pre-trauma Stranger Things is trying to placate: white middle-class suburban America. While other demographics are seriously concerned about climate change—in fact, polling of white America shows the least concern among any racial demographic; and are more likely to see the dangers of climate change as a future problem, not a current problem (Yale Project on Climate Change 2010)—other racial communities, do to the legacy of white supremacy in the United States, are in a different social position and therefore have different cultural reactions to the decline of US power, the change in lifestyle that is needed to either mitigate or adopt to climate change, or even the radical change/destruction of American society. While it maybe said that most white Americans fear a coming dystopia, or catastrophe, many other groups of people current are already leaving in a dystopian world, marked by disproportional prison sentencing, police murders, economic dislocation, and increased government surveillance. For those communities living in catastrophic times already, there is no need to project the fear of the future backwards, as a form of nostalgia.

Part 4: Uneven visions of the apocalypse.

Capitalism proceeds under the logic that there is never ending progress without transformation or change. Every generation has better technology, better standards of living, less crime, and more efficient machines, but at its core, it assumes that the social relationships between people, and most importantly the economic relationships, will never change. They are preordained as natural. With the social relationships of the present naturalized, and the prospects of a different future foreclosed by capitalist logic, it makes sense why Jameson assumes that “It is easier to imagine the end of the world as it is an end to capitalism.” In a sense though, the end of the world, is the end of capitalism; and vice versa. When we think about the apocalypse, we often think about it meaning the end of the world, the apocalypse only represents the end of the present; the transformation of the world into something drastically different. The word means, “to reveal,” and is about revealing the truth; showing the contradictions of the present order so that they maybe negated. It is the exact opposite of the capitalist logic of time. Instead of focusing on a never ending technological progress, with social and economic relationships cast into the future forever; the apocalypse, at least in modern sci-fi and horror, sees a drastic decrease in technological and material wellbeing, but with that the end of our current social and economic relationships, and a space for new relationships—post-racial, post-patriarchal, and post-capitalist—to emerge. From the perspective of capital, the state, and those positioned at the type half of the current pyramid scheme, the apocalypse is something fear and something to constantly project into the future. But climate change is really the collapsing of past, present, and future. The impacts of climate change are already being felt. The warming waters, melting ice, more powerful and unpredictable storms, mud cracking droughts, and the teeming floods show that future is already here. We live, and maybe always have, lived in catastrophic times. A catastrophe is the “…end without revelation, a historical void, and end road that cannot point beyond itself” (Williams 2010: 4). A catastrophe does not provide as any answer, uncover any truth, or provide any possibility, path, or prospectus of a world beyond. But buried beneath the rubble of every catastrophe is the truth of the apocalypse. Politically, the goal is to bring forth the apocalypse from the current catastrophe’s that surround us; to reveal the truth of the present; we most become “post-apocalyptic,” which only happens “…when we accept the present as rubbish, as undead, and as under attack” (Williams 2011: 9)

[1] It is important to note that not all people on our planet are given the social, political, and ontological position of full human membership. For instance, the thinkers within the afro-pessimist school of thought have argued that blackness exists, ontologically, as the opposite of “humanity.” This means that the black can never be fully incorporated into the human category, within our current ontological world. This lack of full humanness, allows black bodies to experience “social death” that is part of the reason that black America has to demand white America to understand that “black lives matters.” The visceral response to that, relatively minor message, only further highlights the exclusion that black Americans face from the category of the human.

[2] For this paper, I want to distinguish between a catastrophe, which is a crises, decline, or destruction of the current world that does not lead to any transformative social and political changes and does not address, or reveal, fundamental truths or contradictions. The apocalypse, on the other hand, is thought of as a “revealing,” to link it back to the original concept of the term. As such, an apocalypse would not only destroy, but provide insight into the logic failing for the destruction, and therefore provide space and opportunity for the construction of a new world, free from that contradiction or falsehood.

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