Thursday, September 08, 2016
8:55 AM |
The Apocalypse is Molasses
The apocalypse doesn't come with mountains trembling and hordes trampling the streets in a spectacle. It comes with sly slowness, baring its fangs intermittently you'd mistake it for a regular smile. The people of Pompeii were going about an ordinary day with the earth slightly trembling now and then, thinking it was just one of those ordinary murmurs -- and then the hot ashes came. The Jews of Europe dutifully lined up to register when the Nazis took power in the early 1930s, hoping that obeying the anti-Semitic edicts would spare them future indignities. (The list of names would eventually be used systematically to obliterate them in the Holocaust.) When the Bolsheviks finally seized power in Russia in October 1917, it was through a very quiet coup. The revolution that had gotten rid of the czar was actually begun by other people and had occurred early that year in February, leading to an interim government. But people tried to go about as usual, ignoring the signs of the coming systematic and wholesale bloodletting that would last from Lenin in 1917, to Stalin in the 1940s. "On the evening of October 25 [in 1917], Princess Meshchervsky went to the opera in Petrograd," Douglas Smith writes in Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy.
"She noticed some trouble with the lights and a strange atmosphere in the theatre, but nothing out of the ordinary. Her experiences accord with most others in the city that night, for whom life, though chaotic and unpredictable, was uneventful." That made me pause. People went to the opera when the apocalypse came.
Labels: history, life
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