Armageddon, east of Greenwich
Forget the giant sundial—here’s a programme for the real millennium.By John Ryle • June 1996 • City of Words • The Guardian • Expanded • Posted 2016 • 762 words
The outfit that terms itself, with a certain grandiloquence, the Millennium Commission—a quangolette that launders money from the National Lottery—has been having a hard time generating support for an end-of-century festival at Greenwich. The main event, they’ve announced, will be an exhibition about Time, with themed pavilions and a giant sundial. And a press release from the Commission speaks of “economic growth, environmental improvement… and new employment opportunities”.
These lacklustre phrases sit ill with the word “Millennium”. Can the commissioners—Virginia Bottomley, Michael Heseltine et al—have considered what an actual millennium is likely to entail, historically and eschatologically speaking? Have they consulted the prophet Ezekiel? Or the Book of Revelation?
Giant sundials and environmental improvement aren’t in it. We’re talking thrones of fire, rivers of blood, venomous locusts, famine and pestilence. And the raising of the dead, followed by a new heaven and a new earth. Apocalyptic stuff—and not accompanied, it must be said, by any obvious signs of environmental improvement, or employment opportunities.
It’s not just biblical prophecy. A cursory examination of millennial themes in other sacred texts shows that the coming of a messiah is widely considered to be on the agenda in a number of religious traditions. This is followed, in most cases, by a thousand years or so of love, peace and righteous government. So the Conservative Party won’t be getting a look-in either. The millennium is not about the end of an era; it’s about the end of life as we know it. (And the end of death as well, of course.)
At the Hound of Hell on the Isle of Dogs
So make way then, please, for the True Millennium Commission. They have a better plan.
The True Millennium Commission will be meeting weekly—until time ends—in the lounge bar of the Hound of Hell, down on the Isle of Dogs, across the river from Greenwich. The TMC is a millennium dream team. There are no time-servers or political appointees: the members, with one exception, are nominated by the Almighty. The chairperson is the Archangel Gabriel; St John of Patmos keeps the minutes; there’s a consultant from the Cryogenics Institute of Palo Alto, responsible for technical issues to do with the raising of the dead. And a fallen angel, nominated by Satan.
The True Millennium Commission has an innovative plan for Greenwich, one that is much more in tune with the Zeitgeist of the Last Days. Away with the giant sundial. Instead there will be thousand foot high holograms of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Out go the themed pavilions. In comes the Garden of the End of Time, which will feature a Hall of False Prophets, a Museum of Mass Destruction and an Apocalypse Zoo.
The Museum of Mass Destruction is sponsored by Royal Ordnance and other arms manufacturers. It will include a live minefield for visitors to test their survival skills in the run-up to Judgment Day. The Apocalypse Zoo will feature, in addition to enclosures for the Lamb of God and the Great Beast, a special exhibit of lethal retroviruses, supported by the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, the Hall of False Prophets (and Discredited Futurologists) will offer visitors the opportunity to pit their wits against representatives of the world’s principal millenarian religions and philosophical doctrines, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Rastafarians, Branch Dravidians, Hegelians and Marxists.
The last trump and the final draw
Up river, the National Film Theatre plans a season of post-Apocalypse movies, the ever-expanding genre that includes The Seventh Seal, On The Beach, Mad Max, Planet of The Apes, Waterworld and so forth. And at the Hayward Gallery, the skyline will be dominated by an installation constructed from a hundred thousand computers rendered inoperative by the Millennium bug.
In anticipation of the Resurrection of the Dead, the Cryogenics Institute and the Corporation of the City of London will be organizing guided tours of City graveyards. And, as a grand finale, the general public will have the opportunity to participate in the Camelot World’s End jackpot—the final draw of the National Lottery, scheduled to take place shortly before the Last Trump. Prizewinners gain membership of the elect, that is to say, the lucky 144,000 who, according to certain interpretations of the Book of Revelation, have eternal life in Paradise.
(Please note, in conformity to prophecy, employees of Camelot and members of the government, along with sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, idolators and those who love and practice falsehood, will be excluded from participating in the latter event.) ★