On Hoping for a Useful Apocalypse

Taylor Roseweeds
4 min readMar 8, 2021


This short essay originally appeared in the Dorothy Day Labor Forum newsletter, Vol. 2, №2, edited by Nick & Linda Braune, Feb. 28, 2021

still from “Melancholia”, 2011

“Apocalypse is not in the future, it is a current condition. We are all interconnected, which means we are all, right now, living in an apocalyptic time. We are all interconnected. Denying that, we die. Surrendering to that, we live.”
— adrienne maree brown

Living through a year of covid quarantine and societal collapse has made me grateful that my life already fell apart entirely a few years ago. I got a head start adapting to new ways of being demanded by a sudden, intense onset of chronic illness, the frustrating uncertainty of waiting for diagnoses, and the social complications of shifting my priorities toward my own health. My old world ended and I had to start over, choosing what to take with me from Before.

Americans live in a culture obsessed with the end times — the apocalypse — a vengeful, hopeful, perverse obsession that transcends religion and politics. The word apocalypse really just means uncovering. This gentler meaning can redeem our fear-driven fixation on the end of life as we know it and to allow us to engage in a cycle of uncovering — revealing harmful dynamics, abolishing the systems that perpetuate them, and imagining other ways of being. Some of my favorite covid uncoverings follow:

covid and expectations of normalcy

During these unprecedented times, Dairy Queen wants you to know that we stand with you. Every advertisement in April 2020 seemed to promise solidarity — no matter how — during these difficult days. As difficult days became months, we heard more often about the so-called New Normal. The brilliance of New Normal lies in its tidy repackaging of Old Normal, offloading what we’re told is heroic sacrifice onto working people while leaving the basic structures of power intact, protected, normal.

The opportunism of those in power never rests and the tech barons, specifically, have not wasted the current crisis. The imposition of surveillance onto our home lives has expanded as schoolchildren are forced to turn their cameras on at Zoom school and the petty automated conveniences that let Google or Amazon into our intimate spaces are retooled as necessities. Meanwhile, those without the luxury — and burden — of working at home are under enhanced versions of their own pre-existing pressures from surveillance to disposability, all while working under duress. If your work is arbitrarily deemed essential, that means no unemployment if you quit and no hazard pay if you stay. Profits soar.

What hope can be found in this uncovering? Perhaps these conditions are so untenable, they will force a break in the system. False class divisions carefully sown over the past century blur and fade when we look around to find that the New Normal has made us all more miserable and the only thing separating the powerlessness of the at-home worker from that of the frontline worker is the proximity of death. Acknowledging this can build new solidarities and lasting collective power.

capitalism and notions of time

A central tension of our digitally-mediated pandemic is an unspoken struggle over notions of time. As Aaron Z. Lewis expansively writes, the shift into a fixed, centralized time as imposed by the rise of industry was followed immediately by a much faster, personalized shift into a flexible, ephemeral timescape shaped by the rise of digital media and culture. Neither of these ideas of time could be considered natural, exactly. One imposes the will of capital and production year-round regardless of harvests or the changing of light and the other enables a type of independence and isolation that would have meant certain death through most of human existence.

Pandemic has forced these two realities together resulting in near-universal expressions of vague discontent. Many observe that “working from home” using virtual tools feels more like “living at work”. The intrusion of the time logic of industrialism, the 9 to 5 workday, into our personal spaces where most of us have become accustomed to the reality of the digital anywhen (Lewis, again) is one source of this friction. Resistance to the dominance of synchronous hierarchy and explorations of the desire for communal rites and spontaneity are, thankfully, thriving quietly in the age of covid — led by those working for Black liberation, queer theorists, activists within disability and neurodivergent communities, and beyond.

neoliberal dreams and individualism

Who better than an airborne virus to teach us the forgotten lesson of our interconnectedness? The neoliberal vision of society as a collection of individuals who exist primarily as consumers or choice-makers has spawned a troubling paradox. This ideology isolates us within the sphere of individual choice as buyers, workers, and voters and these choices become the fundamental unit of U.S. style Freedom. At the same time, we navigate within extreme sociopolitical inequity that diffuses responsibility through government bureaucracy or opaque corporate policy. A strict division of access and knowledge between the layers of hierarchy keeps said structures intact.

This leaves us with an inflated sense of individual responsibility for structural problems and a simultaneous alienation from our ability to hold those in power accountable. Power is happy to offload responsibility to those further from its center, whether it’s the federal government leaving pandemic response up to the states or framing public health information as helpful advice rather than policy or blaming individual consumers for failing to “save” small businesses with their paltry stimulus funds.

Uncovering the absurdities of neoliberalism, which threaten the very existence of humans on this planet, may provide another signpost we can follow down a newly imagined path, post-covid. We are obviously all connected — not simply by man-made markets, but by the very air we breathe. And the death of thinking otherwise could be a crucial gift to our collective future. If everything around us is already changing, why not shape that change together?



Taylor Roseweeds

focused on collective trauma & its relationship to chronic illness. also working on a book on social movements w/ archive of interviews from my podcast, Praxis.