I wonder if the recurrence of this "collapse" theme comes from a general pessimism that pervades the western world. Though denial is rampant, especially in the US, most people seem to subscribe to the idea, if only subconsciously, that things are out of control and that our children's lives will be much harder than our own (or even that of our parents); that life for the most of the earth's population will degrade. The "why" of this collapse is a broad subject that I think most people have a hard time comprehending because the popular media obfuscates the subject so much. But there are reasons--hyper-capitalism, global corporations that corrupt governments, climate change, population over-reach, and (cheap) fossil fuels depletion. The last is greatest driver of collapse because technically advanced (i.e., digital) civilization came about only through cheap, highly concentrated energy (i.e., petroleum). That's gone now, so trying to sustain a complex civilization with endless economic growth is an endeavor doomed to fail. Collapse to a simpler level is inevitable. But what is that simpler level and will we survive the fall to it?
Regular readers of this journal know I'm working on my own "post apocalypse" set of stories under the general title of Dentville. As I work on it, I sometimes wonder if the world I'm painting is too optimistic. Even though the world of Dentville is ravaged, I'm positing a tribal existence for humanity's survivors that at least has some structure to it at a kind of neolithic-medieval level. In Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell describes the fall as going lower than that. The reason for my wondering is that I sense a ponderous evil running our current world.
For example, the mainstream news this week has been mostly about the imminent US attack on Syria. It has largely been a propaganda push for the attack and subsequent war to happen. As with Iraq, the US excuse to pursue war is paper-thin and highly unconstitutional. Despite the popular media's claims to the contrary, the evidence is that the gas attack on civilians outside of Damascus was perpetrated by the "rebels" rather than Syrian government forces. So it's another false-flag to provide an excuse for war. The US administration seems unconcerned that there's no support for a Syrian war among US citizens (only about 9%, though I expect that figure to rise), that the UN won't support an attack, or that the British parliament just voted to not support an attack. But the mind-boggling evil part is that children were gassed in an apparent ploy to make the crime to be pinned on the Syrian government more heinous. This world is ruled by psychopaths.
[BTW, I'm not defending Syrian President Assad. He's no sweetheart and probably should be overthrown. But the revolution should be by and for the Syrian people, not imposed by western corporate powers that desire only a more compliant (to them) dictator.]
So what do you do? How do you cope in a world like this? Do you just hope to survive its violent thrashings as it self-destructs?
Cloud Atlas suggests a response of action. Mr. Mitchell says that collective action by good people can eventually overcome the numbers and technological advantage of the bad ones that oppress. That may be true, but it would likely take a longer time than civilization has left. So a "wait and survive" strategy might also have merit. Or some combination strategy might be best--we wait while we struggle against evil. And it has been said that we struggle, not because we can win, but because it is the right thing to do.
LINKS: My Cloud Atlas review on Goodreads