American — and to a lesser extent, European — narcissism knows no bounds. It can’t be more clearly demonstrated than in all of the scientific demonstrations of how our world could come to an end. The BBC, The Science Channel and Discovery have all been very busy the past six years or so, working out scenarios in which most of humanity and life on Earth faces complete annihilation. Documentaries and shows like The Nostradamus Effect, Earth 2100 and Super Comet: After the Impact are all examples of
our obsession with the fall of our glorious civilization. But in our obsessing over our self-deluded visions of self-destruction, we’ve also made inglorious assumptions that say more about us now than any impending doom ever would.
In Super Comet, the producers and writers are especially guilty of narcissism. A comet with the destructive power of the asteroid that burrowed its way into the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago and provided the final death knell of the dinosaurs slams into Earth in the twenty-first century, when all attempts at stopping it have failed. A Latino man working in Texas, scientists at the Hawaiian volcano observatory near Kilauea, a Parisian family and a tribe of Pygmies in Cameroon.
After it’s all said and done — between the fiery impact, the worldwide EMP shockwave, the burning rain, the 800-degree day and the mini-Ice Age — the world limps on, with post-industrial Europeans and hunter-gatherer Cameroonian Pygmies managing to survive. Not to mention a White male scientist hooking up with an Asian female scientist on Hawaii in the process. The dumb Latino guy kept searching for his family until he reaches the impact crater in Southern Mexico, still a smouldering mess four months after impact, while the Black guy who helps get the Hawaiian couple on board a sailboat dies in a massive Pacific storm.
The subliminal message in all of this is that the world can’t continue and rebound without folks from America and Europe, with the bulk of those being, well, White folks. Though not overtly racial in bias, it’s certainly narcissistic. As if 900 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa could be reduced to Pygmies, not to mention South Asia, East Asia, South America and other parts of the world that could contribute to the rebuilding of world civilization after such a catastrophe.
But these kind of scenarios aren’t limited to Super Comet or Earth 2100. Every post-apocalyptic vision of the world after nuclear war shows civilization kaput, gone, the world without any future at all. I didn’t know that hundreds of missiles were aimed at Accra, Lagos, and Dar es Salaam, Sao Paolo, Montevideo and Rangoon. It’s as if because the rest of the developing world is in such dire straits that the producers of these docudramas have already written the Global South — not to mention ordinary indigenous people and folks of color in America and Europe — off.
It seems to me that until we get over ourselves in the US and Europe that we are doomed. Not as a world. But certainly as the world that we think is ours stops revolving around our riches and power.