I. The conservation of momentum found in the timeline of modern man is not that of physics textbooks, billiards balls intersecting at acute angles, creating subtle trajectories, constantly converging and diverging in Newtonian harmony. Rather it is the product of direct collision, a kinetic explosion where inertia (and those that reek of it) is lain to waste. The clash of civilizations is assuredly a violent one. More curious is its aftermath - and whether there will be one.
II. In secret, we imagine ourselves as post-apocalyptic MacGyvers, deftly boiling water and gutting feral cats in our urban squatter's village, recommissioning cell phones as handheld generators, whipping out our Leatherman at the slightest hint of mechanical failure. The what-if scenarios that occupy the mind of the would-be hero are as endless as they are varied: Nuclear winter? A self-made Geiger counter should do the trick. Religious rapture? A pure heart and clear conscience makes all the difference. No situation goes unturned, uncalculated, unconsidered. Readiness is not a skill one can acquire post facto.
III. And so much more appealing than our own prowess is the gross failure of the rest of the populace. The follies of a generation, a nation, and entire philosophy can be revealed and amplified by tragedy. We can distance ourselves from the sheep, the defeatists, the yes men, the screeching terror of do-nothingness. Sympathy for the afflicted is a new construct, smacking of irony and political correctness. Our strength comes in being unlike them, for the apocalypse only befalls those who deserve its effects - this from its very definition. The apocalypse is not an incident, a new wrinkle in an old playbook. It is merely a revelation, a spotlight on unworthiness, every fate the logical outcome of a determined world. This is the dream of the survivor.
IV. The polar extremes of humanity's ruin are sufficiently close that all fringe theories fit neatly within. Murder, theft, and anarchy are a given. Famine and war will run their course, but these are safely within the realm of a reasonable annihilation - the missionary positions of apocalypse porn. Cannibalism, torture, mass suicides, and unfettered masochism are endorsed as viable product to push. Underground cities, ramshackle industrial complexes, mountain caves and forests are common shelters. Whatever can be imagined can be wrought against us, and certainly no good deed will go unpunished in apocalyptic fiction. Certainly Luddism is rampant: from the miniature devolutions of Jurassic Park and A Sound of Thunder to the more obvious end of military technology and artificial intelligence, science's moral neutrality is a useful tool for exposing man's self-tendency towards oblivion. A small consolation, then: even behind our own demise most likely lies genius.
V. If the last millennia has proven anything, it is that doubt trumps dogma. Quantum physics is its child, relativity its partner, entropy its master. The reason is simple: our natural extension of the ultimate doubt, the afterlife. Whatever promises can be offered us by the powerful and the wise, they are no match for eternity. And if we're going down, we want the whole ship to go down with us. It's reassuring to associate our lifetime with the pinnacle of humanity, and an apocalypse would only confirm what our egos have suspected since we were babbling babes: that we were the last best thing created. To merely suffer private doom is not just lonely anguish, but abject failure.
VI. This is where vanity rears its ugly head: surely no century is more ripe for apocalypse than the 21st. The technological singularity is telescoping ever more rapidly; the capability for mass destruction has moved from the nation to the splinter cell to the individual; and while limits on privacy, activity, and survivalist philosophy increase regularly, so do the efforts to thwart them. Our spheres of influence have expanded in scope, but shrunk in number. Oil, the Internet, the dollar - without any one, collapse is all but guaranteed. The most likely scenario is one of infiltration and betrayal: an agent somewhere will engender trust, only to abuse it in a shocking singular event. And even the most contained chaos poses opportunities in this age which did not exist before. The earth is flat, history has ended. It is no longer a matter of if, but when.
VII. Except for the few who demand specifics, a general sense of the criteria for apocalypse are sufficient. Hindsight is more often the friend of skeptics than the faithful. Forgiving a fool is hard; when it is yourself, impossible. It is this savvy nuance of modern prophets that give them their strength. Every end is judged by probability. The promotion of ideals cannot be founded on any one platform of malaise, one timetable of anarchy. The genesis for thoughtcrime and ubiquitous surveillance was not controlling people, but controlling the history books. Not content with controlling our present, they are determined to control the future as well, to own it before it happens. In the endless abyss, the man in the high castle has the farthest to fall.