Fiona McCade: Apocalypse just isn’t what it used to be
When I was very young, the Doomsday Book sounded really scary. Like it was about the end of the world – a book of Great and Wrathful Judgment. There would be lots of doom and loads of gloom and anybody rash enough to actually open it would probably disappear up their own existence in a ball of green flame.
Fast forward a few years and I discovered that the Domesday Book is actually an inventory of how many people there were in England, where they lived and how many pigs they had. Not at all doom-y. Or even gloomy. In fact, a real let-down and something of a nul points on the apocalyptic scale.
People have always been curiously keen to embrace the possibility of appalling things happening to them and the planet. Nobody ever predicts that things will go well. Nostradamus didn’t become famous for writing: “And lo, 1976 will be really nice and the summer will be ever so hot.”
No, from time immemorial, any seer worth their salt has concentrated on prophesying worst case scenarios. Destruction, pestilence, famine and loads and loads of death. Every few years, usually in the southern states of America, someone foresees the Rapture, during which most of us would be chucked into fiery pits to writhe in agony for ever after. It never happens, but they keep on hoping and praying for it, even though it means the End of Just About Everything.
Well, hold onto your hats, because yet another doomsday is looming. In fact, it’s next Monday, 9 July. So you have just four days to prepare to meet your downfall.
However, Nostradamus might be a tad disappointed. The upshot of this particular cataclysm is that the internet may be down, for a while, for some people. To cut a very, very long story short, last year, an internet fraud infected four million computers worldwide. The FBI – which caught the criminals – has been helping the victims by running proxy servers, but after 9 July, these will stop. Those people still using the infected computers, who haven’t yet installed adequate anti-virus software, will not be able to access the internet after this date.
Yes, folks. According to some of the headlines in the US press – “Internet Doomsday coming 9 July!” – that’s what now passes for the end of the world as we know it. Oh, the horror, the horror – a few thousand people who will only be able to tweet: “Where’s the internet gone?” on their mobiles.
This is so embarrassing. Even more embarrassing than the Y2K fiasco. Maybe, in the past, the clairvoyants went slightly overboard with their predictions of death and destruction, but at least we were promised proper hellfire and damnation. Now, you can forget asteroids, super-volcanoes, bird flu, swine flu, Ebola, the Mayans, the Four Horsemen, and seven-headed beasts rampaging across the planet and plunging us all into Armageddon. Nowadays, “doomsday” means, er… no Google. For a bit.
I grew up with mutually assured destruction, and I’m sure that back then, we didn’t bandy the “d” word about quite so wantonly. Maybe now that nuclear war is no longer such a perceived threat, we’re looking for another one to replace it. And while we’re searching for something to scare the pants off us, we’re happy to call even the most minor inconvenience a “doomsday” scenario.
After all, there’s a whole generation out there for whom a double-dip recession is the most terrible thing they’ve ever experienced. So maybe it’s no surprise that their worst nightmare is not being immediately able to update their Facebook status.
Life on earth will probably end in about 4.5 billion years, but it’s worth remembering that life on earth and “life as we know it” are two very different things. Theoretically, life as we know it could be snuffed out at any moment, which is one good reason why we should really be trying to enjoy ourselves and not letting paranoia prevent us from appreciating what we have.
Anyway, how bad can doomsday be? As far as I’m concerned, the ultimate horror would be the Four Horsemen announcing their arrival on Twitter: “Coming to get you all!!! LOL #Apocalypse”.
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