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The Boy Who Cried Apocalypse
August 17, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Yes, apocalypses come in flavors

When I was born the atomic bomb was still relatively new, and memories of the Nazis and their death camps were bright in people's minds. My family moved to Florida in 1961, in time for me to enroll in first grade at the local Catholic school. Like most six year olds I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on in the world, and little ability to tell who was lying to me.

The Nazis and Japs of my father and mother's battles and the war movies had somehow been replaced by a new enemy, Communists. I was taught, as part of the Catholic faith, that an Apocalypse, the return of Jesus preceded by the destruction of the earth, presumably by communists, could come at any time. I was told that when the communists invaded Florida they would come to my school, line us up against the wall, and ask us if we followed the Catholic Church. If we said yes, we would be shot dead. We were ordered to say we believed in God, and thus become martyrs, and go to heaven. I believed it at the time.

In 1962 we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in second grade. We were told the evil communists were likely to use their missiles to nuke the two military bases in Jacksonville. We were given boxes of food to put in the back of our second grade classroom. The plan, if we heard the emergency sirens, was to pick up our boxes and carry them to Saint Augustine, which I guess was far enough from the bases to be a refuge. But I could barely lift my box, and walking back to my house seemed impossibly far, much less marching to St. Augustine. In my tiny mind I was as much afraid that my mother, former Private First Class Meyers, USMC, aka Mrs. Captain Meyers, would thrash me for failing to carry the box as ordered to Saint Augustine. I got thrashed a lot for failure to carry out orders.

I gradually came to discount the coming of Jesus, though not so much the danger of atomic war. Then when I was perhaps 12, I read a science article that said viruses were evolving that were going to kill all the trees. I believed it, and told my friends, who laughed at me and said it was crazy. I guess they were right. I can look out my window and see perfectly living trees.

I also remember reading science fiction that put the fear of Apocalypse in me. In particular there was an H.G. Wells story, written as a non-fiction news story, about ants in the Amazon who were learning to use tools and successfully fighting humans. It took me days to convince myself that the story had been written before 1900, that it was fiction, and that even if it were true the ants must have met their Waterloo.

I became amused at other people's false fears of apocalypse, like the story of the panic that occured when The War of the Worlds had been read on the radio. I left the Catholic Church, in my own mind anyway. I learned to minimize the thrashings I received, and planned to leave home, one way of the other.

Away from home, I started healing, but it was a gradual (and probably unfinished) process. Distinguishing reality from fiction became a life calling. I definitely walked down a few paths that got me mired down for a while.

My next Apocalypse was the ozone layer crisis. I think that crisis was real, but the scientists and governments of the world did something about it. Perhaps in that case crying Apocalypse! actually prevented, or delayed, the Apocalypse.

I believe mini-apocalypses, ones that affect only a portion of the human race, happen pretty frequently. Just read enough history books and you are forced to that conclusion.

I believe global warming, combined with other forms of eco-destruction, is pushing us towards an Apocalypse of sorts. The timing and details are uncertain, and of course I don't discount the idea of a nuclear war, or biological war, or some black swan event, jumping into the mix.

But I understand how Republicans and others might not think much of people who seem a bit paranoid and ready to cry Apocalypse based on some science theory and data. Everybody has heard the end of the world predicted many times, including by various Christian sects. So far it has not happened. The burden of proof should be pretty high. I will continue to cry wolf, or Apocalypse, or Collapse. I think we should do something about carbon emissions. And overpopulation. But I don't think everyone is crazy for not believing that global warming is serious. Maybe those people are just too sane. If things become more clear, I'm sure they will see better.

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