Seriously? You Don’t Believe We’re on the Eve of Destruction?

Between the Four Horsemen and the Whore of Babylon, developments in the Middle East are fuelling speculation about an impending Doomsday and an Apocalypse soon. Rightly so.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

After a hiatus of three or four decades, I recently found myself humming the tune of the 1965 blockbuster protest song, Eve of Destruction. Though the famous lyrics deal with baby-boomer American memories, including the war in Vietnam and the fight for civil rights, they suddenly sounded very 2012-current to me. “The Eastern world, it is explodin’” seems like a pretty solid prognosis of the shape of things to come, even if they now refer to the 21st century Middle rather than the 20th century Far East.

Of course, a sense of impending doom is usually a very private symptom of various physical or mental phenomena, including heart attack, clinical depression, advanced dementia and inhalation of top of the line marijuana, to name but a few.

But just as our latest Presidential Award winner Henry Kissinger once said that paranoids sometimes have real enemies, so too people with an apocalypse complex need to be accurate only once or twice in an aeon to get a big bang out of watching a whole world, a complete era, a powerful species or a cherished country come to its end.

These days, the perilous permutations are infinite and the danger of a deadly chain reaction is clear and present: so many matches are being lit in dangerous proximity to the Middle East powder keg that an explosion seems almost inevitable. It could start with desperate death throes of the regime in Syria, with an unplanned skirmish with Turkey that gets out of hand, with very bad people getting their hands on chemical stockpiles in Damascus, with an Israeli strike on Iran or in a preemptive vice versa, with a volatile implosion in Egypt, with a collapse in Pakistan, a tremor in Bahrain or Qatar or a shock in Saudi Arabia, in an intemperate move by Hamas or a too-clever-by-half gambit by Hezbollah. When you add to all this the spreading sense of panic at the contracting world economy, the potential rise of extremist fringes in exasperated Europe and increasing tensions with an insecure and pyromaniac Russia, surely one can be excused for seeing visions of unattached fingers writing another doomsday scenario on the proverbial wall.

In fact, the ominous has become so obvious that believers in the Rapture are already in rapture while predictors of the End Times are certain that their time has come as well. “The world has waited over 2,500 years to see the headlines we are now seeing” ...as one armchair Armageddon general gleefully wrote on his web site recently.

The signs are there for all to see and interpret, though there seems to be some disagreement among the seers whether Russia, for example, is Gog or Magog, if Iran is the Prophet Daniel’s leopard or his he-goat, whether the European Union is the ten-horned beast in the Book of Revelation, if the Red Horse of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is perhaps not only War but also China, as in “Red” China, and whether you-know-who is indeed the antichrist, as many millions of enraged and deranged Americans seem to believe, or perhaps this dubious honor goes to his dour-faced former-KGB counterpart from Moscow. And don’t even start on the guessing game concerning the Great Whore of Babylon, with leading candidates ranging from the United Nations through the Catholic Church all the way to the German Chancellor and Kim Kardashian.

For religious people of the three so-called Abrahamic faiths, of course, doomsday, whatever its trials and tribulations, also has its perks: messiahs – in their first or second comings – resurrections, salvations and, naturally, everyone recognizing the righteousness of the One True Religion. For secular people, however, cataclysms have no redeeming features; there is no silver lining in the dark clouds of ruin and the thousands and perhaps millions who die are never reborn, even if they are posthumously baptized by Mormons.

Thus, while the common response among the devout to indications that “the end is nigh”, as the prophets on the pulpits in Hyde Park and Times Square insist, is to multiply prayers and enhance expressions of faith in one’s God, among secular people the universal precaution is the time-tested mechanism of absolute denial.

Nonetheless, after marveling at the in-your-face timeliness of the mid-sixties lyrics written by P.F. Sloan – formerly Schlein, of course – such as “hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say Grace”, I find myself rebuffing his main assertion: “and you tell me, over and over and over again my friend, you don’t believe, we’re on the Eve of Destruction.”

Because you only have to read the daily headlines to realize, especially how, that one can hardly be sure.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev

Iranian troops marching during a military parade commemorating National Army Day, Tuesday, April 17, 2012.Credit: AP

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