2024 in prophecy!



The eleventh part of The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER is one of the less exciting episodes. It has, I think, a rather melancholy tone.



Norman Cohn’s study of movements formed around prophetic belief, The Pursuit of the Millennium, points to a recurrent pattern: in unsettled periods, hopes for change are attached, by some groups, to prophecies that offer an absolute triumph over adversity.

     Hope may be aspirational, but belief in the inevitability of certain outcomes—whether it be the proletarian revolution, the thousand-year Reich or the second coming of Christ—is not to be trusted:


... of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

(Matthew 24:36)


Yet those who assert the certainty of these fantastic outcomes gain influence among many for whom things seem otherwise hopeless. Indeed, those who embrace such influence are often led to accept that no hope is possible except by virtue of faith in the certainty of a happy ending and absolute trust in the individual asserting that certainty.

     “Only I can save you,” says the individual who becomes the focus of that hope; and, whether or not he initially believed it, he is constrained to maintain influence over his followers by continuing to assert the undeviating certainty—while his followers are constrained to believe in him, out of fear they may be cast out from the certainty of salvation, not merely into doubt, but into damnation.

     Thus, leader and followers advance toward the future, cocooned by a belief that is shaken only by its collision with reality. In many of the cases Cohn looks at, the groups were small, the collision swift and catastrophic—though even small and relatively powerless groups may preserve a belief in fantasy so long as they can keep them from coming into direct conflict with reality.

     Larger groups are not immune to the force of collision. Nazi Germany was founded on a fantasy that began consuming itself as soon as the Nazis gained a foothold on power. Other totalitarian regimes have maintained themselves by deferring the confrontation with reality—closing their borders, indoctrinating their citizens, instituting a reign of terror. I’d never have imagined such a prospect attractive to many citizens of the United States, but... welcome to the year of Our Lord 2024.



Seeking to account for the development, in the nineteenth century, of the myth of “a secret... government which... controls political parties and governments, the press and public opinion, banks and economic development,” Norman Cohn describes it (in Warrant for Genocide) as


a particularly degraded and distorted expression of the new social tensions which arose when... Europe entered on a period of exceptionally rapid and profound change... a time when traditional social relationships were shaken, hereditary privileges ceased to be sacrosanct, age-old values and beliefs were called in question. The slow-moving conservative life of the countryside was increasingly challenged by an urban civilization which was dynamic, restless, given to innovation... Democracy, liberalism, secularism, by the mid-century even socialism, were forces to be reckoned with. But all over Continental Europe there were large numbers of people who abominated all these things. A long, bitter struggle began between those who accepted the new, mobile society and the opportunities it offered, and those who hoped to retain or restore the vanishing traditional order...


In the United States, in the twenty-first century, these tensions persist—and not only in the U.S. does the inertia of political narrative constrain its followers: those who fear change remain receptive to the same old stories; those who need their support know those stories are effective. History attests to the unforeseen consequences of many an ill-considered leap or rush toward tomorrow, yet so-called conservatives prefer to dream of a yesterday when, in a blessed state of ignorance, no such caution was thought necessary. Under the cloak of ignorance, they would have us advance fearlessly into the future, let the devil take the hindmost.

     Who was it who said those who do not remember the past—or don’t remember it accurately, or understand it—are condemned to repeat it?

     Who knows? Who cares?

     Forget it and move on...