rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Is doomsday really upon us?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Nuclear test. Image: FEMA News Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Until she died at age 91, my mother used to read the newspaper every day, even though the news often shook her badly. She would regularly announce that it was the worst of times: the world was becoming more dangerous every day, violent, downright mashugana. Doomsday, she was convinced, was upon us.

Normally I'd laugh at her. I'd point out -- for the nth time -- what she, of course, already knew only too well. She spent the First World War in a small town in Poland, separated from her father in Canada for six years. She had grown up and gotten married during the Great Depression. Our family had lived through the entire Second World War.

She was Jewish; she knew all about the Holocaust. And about the atomic bombs the Americans inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were immediately followed by almost a half-century of the Cold War. She was quite aware of the monstrous horrors inflicted by Stalin and Mao.

She knew that the world came close to mutual assured destruction in the Cuban missile crisis. She knew about the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the American wars in the Middle East, and even, thanks to me, the small vicious proxy Cold Wars fought across Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Given all this, I would challenge her: How can you say the world today is more dangerous than it's ever been before? I might even have thrown at her Steven Pinker's remarkable 2011 book The Better Angels of our Nature, where Professor Pinker documents the counterproposition that it's the best of times: We may actually be living in the most peaceful period in our species' existence.

Despite Professor Pinker and his many successors, today, we can be certain, she'd insist that this is really the most dangerous moment humanity has ever faced. And today I'm not at all sure I'd try to change her mind. Between North Korea and Washington, Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, it surely feels as if something qualitatively different, more perilous and threatening, something literally existential, might just be facing us.

We are rapidly approaching the same kind of escalation that led the world to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with humankind on the very brink of nuclear war and nuclear destruction. I still recall it quite vividly. It was a uniquely terrifying moment in the lifetime of the world. Like everyone else, I too kept a sharp eye out for the very latest news to see how long we had left to exist.

If it sounds preposterously melodramatic now, it was real enough then. In the end, we were saved by both sides agreeing to back off. But it took the cool heads of the two most powerful men on earth, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, to spare us to try again one day.

Has that day now arrived? Surely no one would willingly entrust Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump with the future of humanity, yet neither seems controllable in the slightest. Who knows where their bizarre game of chicken may end up? It's perfectly plausible that one or another may stumble his way into launching the armed missile that would demand immediate retaliation by the other. The consequences, as we all knew back in the Cold War days, would indeed be mutual assured destruction. Who believes Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump can be trusted to choose sanity over nuclear Armageddon?

In any event, there are other roads to doom. For a start: the updating of nuclear weapons, climate wilding and Mr. Trump's America spinning out of control. Take the third: there's no reason to believe that this summer's outbreak of violent anarchy in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be the last. Countless Americans are ready to erupt. It's estimated that hundreds of heavily armed neo-fascist militias threaten to unleash their power, knowing they have an ally in the White House. Both furious African-Americans and frustrated whites have had enough. America feels ripe for its second civil war, which, like the first, would unleash forces that can hardly be imagined. How can any normal sensible person fail to be shaken? I include me.

Frankly, these feel to me like the apocalyptic End Times that the hysterical Old Testament prophets foresaw many millenniums ago. As Mr. Trump has provocatively warned, "fire and fury" are next. Perhaps my dear old Mama understood human nature better than Professor Steven Pinker.

(P.S. Don't get angry at me. I'm just the messenger.)

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail

Image: FEMA News Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.