Popular culture loves an apocalypse, with special fondness these days for zombies, pandemics, and zombie pandemics. (The 2012 thing is so over.) There is another style of apocalypse, however, the good old-fashioned millenarian kind that is usually associated with cults and fundies, but which comes in some surprising forms. And some of these forms, unfortunately, are current, widespread, and scarily influential.
The pop-culture version of apocalypse is a cataclysmic event that destroys the world as we know it in some morbidly entertaining way—but where this brand departs from classic millenarianism is in what happens afterwards. “Post-apocalyptic” has come to describe something like a Mad Max wasteland where the shattered remnants of humanity duke it out under the hegemony of psychopathic warlords; or the Walking Dead version of the same, where random survivors scuttle like cockroaches around the ruins of suburbia. In the popular conception, an apocalypse leads to dystopia.
Under the classic definition, however, the destruction has a purpose, and often a cosmic one. The world/society is irredeemably flawed, corrupt, wicked. It cannot be fixed; it can only be swept away by heroic measures and bloody upheavals, so that a pure and just system can replace it and everybody can live happily ever after—“everybody” being defined as the right-thinking survivors. In the classic millenarian scenario, an apocalypse leads to utopia.
Many millenarian agendas are instantly recognizable as such, because they involve some deity’s grand plan for purging and renewing Creation. Jonestown, ISIL, the Crusades, the Taiping rebellion, the Rapture-Readies, Aum Shinrikyo, long lists of big and little cults and sects and doomsday communes, all have based their appeal on the devoutly desired purge of a wicked world, including all the mofo unbelievers who ever made fun of the faithful.
But this yearning is not limited to religious nutters—there are secular eschatologies that are arguably identical to the mystical variety in structure and aspirations. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, for example. Free-market fundamentalism. The radical activism of the Earth First movement. Marxist and Fascist revolutions. And now, I would argue, the phenomenon known as the Social Justice Warriors fits the pattern very well. This becomes clear when you consider some classic features of millenarian movements, both religious and secular.
- Exclusive Ideology
A good millenarian marker is an uncompromising belief system (philosophy, creed, manifesto, scripture, ideology) that stakes out a claim to ownership of all truth and especially all righteousness, and unifies the Elect under an attractive banner. This banner, in secular millenarianism, generally has to do with sweeping away injustice and wickedness and making the world a better place. The ideology also specifies how “better” should be defined, which is not always how the rest of us would imagine it. The premises and logic of the ideology do not bear close examination, but are sealed against criticism or rational testing.
So how does this relate to the SJWs? Apparently, western society is a complex web of oppressions and injustices, constructed in such a way as to entrench the power of men, particularly white men, over the rest. Women are trained from birth to cling to their chains; men are trained to be entitled. Most men actually hate women, except as sex toys. This is the essence of Patriarchy, the unfixable system that must be dismantled before a Just Society can be built on its ruins. Crosscutting this is the concept of systemic racism, where all white people (and only white people) are racist, oppressing the rest from the peak of a mountain of privilege. This is the Holy Ideology of the social justice movement, an amalgam of critical theory and radical feminism, treated as unassailable truth rather than iffy postmodern truthiness.
- Demonization of Dissent
Since the Elect are uniquely righteous, it follows that the unconverted are not righteous. In fact, it is not enough that the unconverted should be wrong; they must also be evil, hateful, and threatening, actively engaged in persecuting the Elect. This goes double for apostates. And because the unconverted are evil, they have no place in the post-apocalyptic utopia; if they cannot be converted, they must be destroyed. Thus, they are not worthy of compassion, and deserve every apocalyptic woe that comes their way.
The demonization of dissenters is precisely the SJW pattern. Questioning the hard gender-feminist line is “misogyny,” regardless of how the questioner feels about and behaves towards women, and regardless of the questioner’s gender. (Yes, women and other genders also get called misogynists.) Reserving judgment on sexual assault accusations is “rape apology.” Speaking out is “violence.” Expressing a dissident opinion in some venues will earn the label of troll, liar, or hater, and bring down torrents of online vitriol. Opponents—gamergaters, slymepitters, men’s rights activists, equity feminists—are dismissed outright as hate groups, which allows the valid points they make to be ignored. Online rape and death threats are trumpeted as evidence of persecution, though they are more likely to be demonstrations of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. The fact that the SJWs’ opponents get similarly trolled is ignored. After all, since all such opponents are defined as lying, hate-filled, homophobic racist misogynists, they deserve to suffer.
- Ideology Trumps All
Millenarian ideologies are typically draconian, uncompromising, and demanding, requiring their adherents to see everything through ideology-coloured glasses. Words and actions are scrutinized for correctness, on a pass/fail basis and with no allowance for charity, compassion, or nuance. This makes it easy for outsiders (heretics, infidels, newbies) to offend unintentionally, but it also turns discourse inside the movement into a minefield. The effect is that the movement frequently eats its own. Both insiders and outsiders who do not fall in line with the interests of the ideology are disposable.
Secular ideologies can just as harsh on outsiders as religious ones. The Other is literally a necessary evil, a convenient stable of foes and scapegoats, and the focus of moral panics. Think of Ayn Rand’s looters and moochers, and Hubbard’s SPs; the kulaks, intellectuals, and reactionaries on the wrong side of Marxist or similar revolutions; the Jewish conspiracy envisioned by Hitler; the poor and unemployed as viewed by free-market fundamentalists. In SJW terms, the prime enemy is white males, plus anybody who does not engage in knee-jerk demonization of whites and males.
- Denial of Progress
Because the world is hopelessly corrupt/in thrall to Satan, any apparent progress it makes towards virtue is a snare and a delusion. Furthermore, anyone attempting to fix the world is only perpetuating the evil, thus maliciously delaying the advent of utopia. Compromise or cooperation with the existing world/system and its proponents is similarly wicked, equal to making deals with the devil. The only solution envisaged is destruction and renewal along the correct ideological lines.
I hardly need to comment on something so obvious, but I will. The enormous changes in Western society over the last fifty years, the great strides toward equality of opportunity, mean nothing in SJW terms. So long as the dreaded Patriarchy is in place, progress is both illusory and irrelevant. Only the destruction of (white) Patriarchy will serve—“Patriarchy” being, I suppose, the gendered term for what we used to call “The Establishment.” I have no idea what this particular apocalypse would entail in the real world, and I don’t think the SJWs do, either. Since “Patriarchy” is not a thing, but an unfalsifiable ideological construct, it can never actually be destroyed. Whatever progress is made, the SJW faithful will simply continue to move the goalposts.
The joke is, the advent of an actual SJW Utopia would put all those gender-studies and critical-race-theory mavens out of a job. On the whole, though, I think I’d prefer a zombie apocalypse.