A New World Apocalyptic Eschatology

Sandy Krolick, Ph.D.

1.

Frustrated and weary from their own victimization in the ‘Old World’ — and in search of a better life in the ‘New’ — boatloads of European explorers and pilgrims stole their way across the North American continent, eventually occupying every corner of this territory from sea to shining sea. But in their mad dash of territorial conquest, these predominantly ‘white’ settlers turned right around and proceeded to victimize the ‘red man’ — those indigenous inhabitants already occupying the land for generations. These new Anglo-European ‘immigrants’ forcibly, and in many cases violently, took possession of once indigenous lands; it is no secret that native Americans suffered brutally and often fatally at the hands of the white immigrant settlers and their cavalries. 

            But wait! Perhaps the tables have begun to turn by some odd twist of fate. More recently a small but rather paranoid contingent of our settled compatriots have been agitated by waves of other, darkly-complected immigrants, whom they imagine are trying to ‘take’ from them the very land their forebears stole from native Americans. Such paranoia is borne not simply of an enduring, if unjustifiable, sense of white privilege. The fear is emblematic of their own pre-disposition; it is a reactionary posture grounded in both distain for and distrust of the Other. Such apprehension is ultimately the instantiation of misplaced aggression — a slow simmering reaction by those who have been weaned on the mother’s milk of suspicion and a proclivity for violence. Remember, ‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ Paranoia and fear thus lie at the very foundation of white privilege in America; like twin stigmata, these are part and parcel of the white man’s burden here, insuring the continuing eruption of violence if these emotions are left unchecked.

            This is the unstable foundation upon which our country and our democracy now rest — awkwardly, tentatively, precariously. We are teetering on the edge of an existential crisis borne on the wings of fear — a posture clearly seen in the machinations of congresswoman and unabashed QAnon adherent, Marjorie Taylor Greene. But she is not alone among her colleagues, not by a long shot. Indeed, this fear and the attendant proclivity to violence that results from such pathologies has come to define reality for a growing swath of our citizenry including our political class. Yet, such pathologies are grounded in a mental image whereby the ‘Other’ — now quite heavily mythologized — is seen as an existential threat. Although such imagined threats are patently false, the symbolic referents continue to guide the pre-conscious choices of a growing number of our compatriots, reinforced by an unbroken lineage of presumed privilege and fear of losing it. It is long past time for us to acknowledge this fact. We are, after all, at a crossroads — an inflection point in our history — and we must reign in the vile and the suspicious among us before it is too late. To do this, we should look at the coalescence or convergence of concurrent conspiratorial forces: white supremacy on the one hand and QAnon on the other, and the attendant challenges these raise for the future of our democracy.  Here I will only explore the linkage between these two reactionary conspiracies.

II.

            The recent notoriety surrounding QAnon (Q) — this uniquely American-style millenarian cargo-cult guided by some of the same presumptions of white privilege that we see in its would-be savior, Donald Trump — has thrust into the open undeniable elements of a haunting American eschatology. In fact, it is not surprising to find both blue and white-collar Christians among Q’s most ardent supporters, especially among the evangelicals. For its part, Q is emerging as an apocalyptic Christian nationalist movement demonstrating a unique pedigree harkening back even to the Book of Revelation

            Of course for Q-believers, marching elbow-to-elbow with their white nationalist brethren, Trump was and remains a ‘once and future king’— their anointed savior; his executive role was certainly evident in fomenting and directing the violent attack on the Capitol. With sticks and stones, body-armor and battering rams, Trump’s cult-followers sought to destroy those who would dare oppose his leadership. With perhaps a touch of irony, and not unlike Jesus’ overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple of Jerusalem, Trump unleashed his own legions on our temple of democracy to overturn an election. The symbolism here is thick and rich. Led-on by their would-be shaman-prophet (Jake Angeli) — a privileged white nationalist demanding organic food in his holding cell — the insurrectionists hammered away at the Capitol as they continued hammering out elements of their own contemporary mythical journey (perhaps to Valhalla). With a blend of Norse, Neo-Nazi, and more archaic mythology, the insurrectionists literally sought to “carve-out” a new mytho-historical reality, one delivering a new heaven and a new earth.

            For the most part, these Q-led white-and-disgruntled insurrectionists communicated in a veiled tongue as well, a language laced with symbol and metaphor. One favorite symbol was that of The Storm, itself serving as place-holder for an apocalyptic event heralding the day of reckoning. This was to be the day when Trump’s salvific return would explode across the national stage and the infidels — those weak liberal blood-drinking pedophiles of the Deep State, along with other assorted undesirables — would finally receive their long-overdue and divinely mandated retribution. Such sentiments bring us awfully close to an eschatological vision of the End Time, much as we find described in the New Testament’s Revelation of Saint John the Divine, and specifically its reference to ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’.  As we read in Revelations

I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (6:2)

Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (6:4)

I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. (6:5)

I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. (6:8)

            Surely these lines give us some pause when considering the events surrounding the recently attempted insurrection. Again, the use of imagery and symbolism is key to Q’s message, just as it was in the apocalyptic vision of St. John. So perhaps, and by way of paraphrase, it is not too far-fetched to say the following: Donald Trump sought to wear a crown on his head and, with a pair of scales in his hand, ride out like a conqueror, destroying peace on earth as men slayed one another, leaving death and destruction in his wake.

            It is, of course, no accident that Q-believers are steeped in religious myth and symbol. And given its predilection for apocalyptic eschatology, the energy of this cult is able to draw in millennialists and extremists of all stripes, including white supremacists, Christian evangelicals, and many others factions in-between. If we look back to the founding of our country, the roots of such a cult can already be detected percolating in the earliest stirrings of white privilege (supremacy) witnessed with the emergence of the American spirit (an incipient nationalism) centuries earlier. And now this nationalism has been unleashed through the progeny of immigrants who first invaded this land centuries before.

            I suggest that the violence exercised and witnessed at the Capitol recently is merely the tip of an iceberg that is bigger and has been growing for much longer than we care to admit.  Its origin is as old as those first explorers or pilgrims who dared set foot on this territory and decimate or enslave its indigenous inhabitants. In short, the mythologically-infused movement of that seditious mob has been baked into the cake since before our founding, just waiting to explode.  I’m afraid to say that while we’ve already seen some of its fire and brimstone, the hot lava is about to engulf us. This uneasy but not unlikely alignment or political convergence of an apparently religious millenarianist movement with a violent and broadly nationalistic conspiracy is leading us fast and furiously to a potentially apocalyptic conclusion. As the congressional representative Donna DeGette remarked in the Senate hearings, we now can see “the first stab in a greater revolution.”

About kulturcritic

With a doctorate in religious studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, Sandy had a ten-year academic career, with appointments at University of Virginia and the Colorado School of Mines. He spent the next twenty years in executive ranks at several of America’s largest international firms, including Computer Sciences Corporation, Ernst & Young, and General Electric. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America, as well as parts of Eurasia and Africa. For the past five years Sandy has been living in Western Siberia with his wife and young child, teaching at the Pedagogical University and the Altai Institute for Law and Economics in Barnaul, Russia. Published works include VERONIKA: The Siberian's Tale (a novel), (Islands Press 2011) Apocalypse Of The Barbarians: Inquisitions On Empire (Islands Press, 2010), The Recovery of Ecstasy: Notebooks From Siberia (Booksurge, 2009), Recollective Resolve: A Phenomenological Understanding of Time and Myth (Mercer University Press, 1987), Ethical Decisionmaking Styles (Addison-Wesley Press, 1986), and Gandhi in the Postmodern Age: Issues in War and Peace (CSM Press,1984).
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8 Responses to A New World Apocalyptic Eschatology

  1. I’m the descendant of the white conquerors and usurpers. My ancestry goes back to colonial slaveholding aristocracy and early American Indian fighters on the frontier. My people have been in every fight and oppression. I have a good sense of how this history shapes the self-identified ‘white’ psyche and identity.

    I still have plenty of family in our stolen and adopted homeland of Kentuckiana. My mother’s family were poor whites from the backwoods. Both of my parents were born in Indiana, the Hoosier state. Originally, Hoosier referred to rural white trash. Those are my people and I know them well. Some of them are Trump supporters. And no doubt more than a few of them are prone to conspiracy theories like QAnon. I have an uncle who definitely fits into this worldview.

    It’s true that Trump’s strongest and largest support came from whites of the urban and suburban middle class. But he also drew support from the unwashed masses like my own family. Still, it’s hard to put too much blame on poor whites as they vote at such low rates. It seems that the most right-wing and reactionary are found among educated professionals, not the uncouth working class. That is true even of Evangelicals. The most religious demographic in the US is the middle-to-upper class.

    The dirt poor, white and non-white, have become mostly politically disenfranchised, cynical, and apathetic, and have low rates of religiosity (e.g., church attendance). They don’t have the time or money to become political activists and go to protests. That is why the Capitol insurrectionists were mostly middle class with the money and time to travel. And that is why you can find odd pampered and privileged individuals like the QAnon ‘shaman’ demanding his organic food in jail.

    As hard as it is to believe now, the white working class used to be a stronghold of left-wing politics and labor organizing, even in the South. Think of the coal mining wars that led to a 100,000 miners, mostly white, to rebel and fight back against plutocratic oppression. Many of these poor whites were anarchists, Marxists, and communists. These people used to be stalwart Democrats, but that began with the takeover of the Blue Dog Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

    This shift has continued with a slow weakening of working class solidarity, as Democrats went neoliberal and helped push the Overton window far right. The Carter and Clinton Democrats pulled support from labor and took up corporate deregulation, racist law-and-order, neocon war-mongering, etc and covered it up with symbolic culture war and social issues.

    The DNC elite thought they could defeat the GOP by gaining traction among the well-educated and well-monied middle-to-upper class. But unexpectedly, these are among those who ended up turning hard right into reactionary paranoia, xenophobia, and white resentment. The working class simply dropped out of the equation, largely giving up on the system.

    Representative of this change, one county in Eastern Kentucky had voted Democrat for every presidential election since the Civil War until 2016 when they voted for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. These people had voted for Barack Obama, the first back presidential candidate. They had also voted for John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton; even George McGovern and John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic, and going back to FDR.

    Yet they just couldn’t bring themselves to voting for Hillary Clinton. Or they finally soured on the neoliberal vision. Trump represented a change in politics. He was the first presidential candidate in recent history to challenge the neoliberal establishment. His 2016 platform was actually more progressive than that of the Democrats. He promised to bring back jobs, to rebuild the national infrastructure, to improve healhcare, and clean up corruption.

    Sure, all of this was bull shit. But then again, so was everything Hillary Clinton said, as she secretly reassured the capitalist class behind closed doors (e.g., the covertly recorded speech she gave to bankers). Many of these people voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama and, if he had been nominated, would have voted for Bernie Sanders. They genuinely wanted hope and change. Obama’s betrayal or failure was the last straw for some of these people.

    Also, to understand this collective derangement in our society, we have to see the context of inequaity being higher in the US than in any country in the world and higher than ever before in all of human existence. Many scholars like Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson show the data of how high inequality causes damage to every aspect of society. Then the work of Keith Payne explains in detail how this leads to mental illness, aggression, conflict, paranoia, fear-mongering, conspiracy theory, and worse.

    All of this was expected. And many predicted this moment long ago. We shouldn’t act surprised by the inevitable result that had developed over decades and generations. Left-wing thinkers and activists have been warning us about this going back to earlier last century. But the poitical and media elite ignored it, as they were riding high on their unchallenged power while the two-party system gained a stranglehold and corporate media became concentrated into an oligopoly.

    Knowing how this was created, what are we going to do in response? It’s not going to solve the problem by the Democrats offering minor reforms to prop up the corporatocratic oligarchy, banana republic, inverted totalitarianism, or whatever one wants to call what this country has become. Too many people are obsessing over the fevered symptoms, rather than the diseased system. Healing this collective sickness is not going to be easy.

  2. DA says:

    Good to see you back at it again Sandy. I see the whole Q phenomenon has given you a ripe opportunity to expound again, but keep in mind the whole thing might well be just another false-flag operation carried out by the usual three letter agency suspects. Not sure I’d give too much credence to any of it, just as I never gave much credence to Trump either. He might well have been just another actor playing a part in the fine tradition of Obama and the Clintons. We live in a fully-spun post-truth world now, don’t ya know? The “shaman,” in particular, I think was pure performance art. The boys at Langley were just having a little fun with us there. But BDS above has the basic diagnosis entirely correct. TPTB are trying desperately to keep a lid on things until they can implement more drastic measures, which are definitely on the horizon now.

  3. leavergirl says:

    Having looked into it in detail, I am taking QAnon as an alternate reality game. Such games have a history going back to about 2000, and the vast, vast majority of them were a PR device (usually for a new game coming out). Not inconceivable Trump’s team hit upon such a strategy to boost his numbers. (They are different from LARPs.)

    “we must reign in the vile and the suspicious among us before it is too late”

    Yeah, well, look at the looney left, censoring and deplatforming everybody they can lay their hands on. An -ist and a -phobe under every bush. I feel sheepish I once believed their critique of Othering was honest.

    Oh and you think the Russians behaved better in their conquest of Siberia? Easy to yell at the past…

    DA, I too am betting on Langley with the self-designated shaman.

    • There is plenty of censorship and oppression going around, far from being limited to deplatforming and whatnot. And I sympathize with those on the political right who have run into trouble with our present system of power.

      But I’d note that presently, for example, most silencing in academia is hitting the political left. Even so, it’s generally not a good time for anyone with ‘alternative’ views that challenge the status quo. We all need to be supportive of free speech for all.

      I hope that the oppressive atmosphere of our society changes and that the media can be democratized somehow, as we need a public forum for public debate. Keep in mind that people like me are not your enemy, are not part of the oppressors.

      Most of us are here down on the bottom struggling to be heard and striving to make the world a better place. I wish you well in life. Don’t let the problems of our society turn your mind to dark thoughts. Don’t let those in power turn you against your fellow Americans.

      Divide and conquere is how we are kept powerless. As long as the powerless are manipulated into attacking one another, they can’t seek alliances in regaining the power that was taken away from them by the social dominators spinning false narratives.

      https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/on-campus-censorship-it-looks-like-weve-been-deceived/

      • leavergirl says:

        Your article mixes academic deplatforming and cancelling and persecution, with mob-originated death threats which indeed hit both sides. And no, somebody who (if credibly) incites to violence is not protected by the first amendment. Glad the sob got fired. Do you know why Kathy Griffin didn’t? On the other hand… the left has begun eating its own. Viz for example the harassment of Greere and Rectenwald.

        Anyway. I am tired of the right/left divide. F everybody who is against free speech. I don’t care what ideology they hew to, that alone is bad enough. Thank you for writing.

  4. leavergirl says:

    Looks like the auto editor eliminated all my paragraphs spaces and smudged everything together. Is there are cure for that?

  5. leavergirl says:

    Well. It fixed itself…

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