The Adbusters Apocalypse

Please join us in a crazy, yet profound, journey into a radical new future. Imagine this... you wake up tomorrow morning and find out that the Dow Jones has just plunged 2,000 points. Trading has been halted. Over the next few weeks: Major stock markets around the world crash, Banks close, Supermarket shelves are half-empty, Power is intermittent, gasoline hard to find, email sporadic… -From the editors at Adbusters

Dear Adbusters Editors,

Believe me, I am as unconvinced by capitalism as you are. I’m down with even the most offensive billboard alterations, I appreciate a good sweatshop expose, and I have stood in support of many of the messages your magazine has worked to put across over the years. Really, I have. But when I received the recent invitation to join you in a “crazy, yet profound, journey into a radical new future,” I have to admit – I was less than impressed.

The invite, which suggested that its recipients imagine waking up tomorrow to find that:
Violent gangs and bandits roam the streets. People move to the country – if they can. Governments try to maintain order, yet it appears that the old globalized order is gone, if not forever, then for a long, long time.
The next issues of Adbusters, they tell us, is going to be compiled as if it were being published 6 months after this supposed crash. The editors, in their request for so-called Post-Crash submissions, say they can see “a chance to create the new world that we've always dreamed about.”

Back up. I understand theoretical catastrophe can sometimes be sexy. Like a lightning storm right until the moment it is over your own home. And thought experiments and apocalyptic scenario-planning has been around longer than Adbusters.

Whenever I hear about the disparities between the first and third world, I am well aware that there’s no way things in the West can stay the way they are. But encouraging people into an absurd mental game, to not only hope for drastic destabilization and chaos, but to assume they’d survive it with a “sporadic” email connection – and asking for "how-to tips" on how to kill a chicken – as their biggest concerns seems not only like an profound waste of time, it seems irresponsible.

If you work for social justice you know that most positive change happens slowly. It takes time to build movements and reconcile all the pieces. But – and Adbusters has proved this nicely – there is a big difference between making change and sitting around hoping change will happen.

This echoes what I’ve heard people saying about why they don’t vote: that Gore and Bush were the same, and now Kerry and Bush are just as much the same, and that they’d prefer to hang out and wait until the system crashes. This is one way to uphold the status quo: Keep people polarized around participation in "the system." Either you're with us in our vision of a 180-degree crash-and-burn turn, or you remain "part of the problem."

The fact that such an important and influential media source would take such an abstract, academic approach to change – especially at a time when many of us see participation in the system as crucial to changing it – concerns me. This goes beyond "culture jamming," beyond giving people tips on how to “buy nothing” or how to break up their sidewalks and plant trees.

What about the casual mention of violent gangs that will “roam the streets?” And who are these readers who can afford to move to the country? I saw “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” I know I’m not enough like Tina Turner to survive. An apocalypse isn't the only way to attain that new world that Adbusters editors have always dreamed about.

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