It's been a while since I visited Exit Mundi, Maarten Keulemans' collection of darkly amusing apocalypses that might befall humankind, from nuclear war to meteorite impacts. The site is turning 20 years old this year, and many of its scenarios center on millennial-era concerns: peak oil, terrorism, The Greenhouse Effect, the Borg. But one stood out in weird relief: "Mass insanity, c. 2020"
Just picture it: a world full of nutcases. On the streets, you'll see people flapping their arms and shouting they're airplanes. In the president's office, a moron will say: 'I wonder what this button does,' and promptly start a nuclear war. Others will kill themselves, jumping from buildings to prove they can fly, shooting each other up for fun, or stepping in front of trains because they think they're Superman. Admit it. It would be a rather odd way of going out.
But actually, the nutcase scenario is not that idiotic. It got high marks on a dead-serious ranking of what can go wrong with the world, published once by the popular science magazine Discover. Indeed, there's some quite serious evidence we're heading for total insanity.
It's mostly problematic jokes about the increasing diagnosis of mental illnesses and personality disorders at the time it was written, circa 2001. But taken as an an insight into (and a comic attempt to define) wider cultural, economic and sociological horrors, Keulemans nailing psychogenic chaos to the year 2020 is a solid prediction.
Trump didn't nuke anyone, all told, but he did end the year planning a legislative coup and to tell his mob to go sack the U.S. Capitol.
Bonus: Here's philosopher Richard Rorty, writing a few years earlier in the 1990s:
something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman … One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.