Millennium fear runs deep


Expectations of impending doom for mankind are deeply ingrained in Western culture. So all it takes is an event like the clickover to the year 2000 to trigger that anxiety, says Barry Brummett, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee scholar of apocalyptic movements.
“Because we are coming up on a nice round number, they are allowing for whatever they can to hang some sort of anxiety they have on it,” says Brummett, who is a communications professor. “They have managed to marry the Y2K stuff with the click of a nice round number. ”
At the turn of the first millennium 1,000 years ago, religion had a firmer hold on the masses, and there was considerable fear associated with an expectation of Christ’s return. This time around, the fear is much more vague, as religion has less influence on the collective psyche, Brummett says. People aren’t as explicitly Christian as they were in the year 1000.
There is no 2000-year mention in the Bible, yet, people have some sort of apocalyptic anxiety or expectation about the changeover. “For a lot of folks, it is free-floating anxiety, so they are looking for some place to hang it,” Brummett says. “People feel there may be an environmental catastrophe, or an urban insurrection.”
Brummett says that apocalyptic thinking, at heart, is something that everyone in Western culture harbors whether they realize it or not. Scholars have pointed out that this kind of thinking is a sense that history is following a plan that is irreversible and grinding toward an inevitable conclusion.
“Things in today’s world are changing too rapidly, and for many people, their traditional means of understanding things have failed,” Brummett says. “Are things too weird for you? If so, the big event, the end of the world is about to be ushered in.
“I think within the heart of business people are the same kind of set of concerns,” Brummett continues. “They say ‘I don’t seem to be able to run my business the same way I did 10 to 15 years ago.’ ”
Capitalism has always been governed by a consistent way of doing things, Brummett says. But traditional business paradigms are changing, or are not working anymore. “Anyone who has ever thought that conditions are too strange – that there must be some kind of larger plan at work – they are one step away from those who go out to a hillside and expect to be raptured,” Brummett says.

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