Digital Doomsday?

Nero AE Sestertius. 64-66 AD. NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate head right / CONG II DAT POP S-C, Nero, bare-headed & togate, seated left on curule chair on low platform, prefect standing behind him, on ground an attendant standing left distributes coins to a citizen holding out folds of his toga to receive them, Minerva standing before temple in background. BMC 139. Date 2008 Source CNG coins Author CNG

Get ready to have your credit, bank and driver’s card digitalized, along with your passport and health records, vaxx and booster status, and so on.

Canadians expect to be able to access any government service, at any time and on any device. Most citizens agree that personal information should be shared between GC departments to enable faster, simpler service. However, while they recognize the potential of technological, digital and data transformation, citizens are concerned about how the GC uses and manages their personal information and about what it does to ensure their privacy and security.

I’ll bet. You too are likely ‘concerned’ about how the ‘GC’ – that is, the Government of Canada – uses ‘personal information’. This is in part about efficiency, as the government-ese language strives to get across, but also, perhaps more so, about control. After all, if all of our money is in digital form – ones and zeroes on a computer grid – how easy it is for the government to do what they will with it. Those who had their bank accounts frozen after last winter’s Freedom Rally can attest to that. It’s a lot more difficult for the state to enter your home and seize your cash and assets, especially if you hide it well.

Most of our income is now in digital form, and this not just of individuals, but of corporations and countries. The very reality of such assets may even be questioned, as money is ‘printed’ out of thin air, and even ‘printing’ may be too real a verb, as much of it is just shifted around digitally, as ethereal ones and zeroes.

The next step likely will be some sort of omnibus digital card, or a download app on your phone. Then, as such technologies are themselves claimed insecure – cards and phones can be lost or stolen – they may embed some sort of silicon chip, or perhaps a digital tattoo, in your skin, as is already being done in some locales.

How deeply nefarious all this is depends on various factors, not least how close we are to the consummation of history. For there will be an end to time, preceded by what the Catechism describes as ‘the final unleashing of evil’, and a persecution of the faithful unlike any seen before.

Whoa! Slow down! From digital I.D. to the parousia? Isn’t that in some distant future? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Christ warns we know neither the day nor the hour, and the end will come when we are not expecting it. Might this move to digitalization be a prelude to the fulfilment of the prophecy outlined in Revelations 13 (16-18 – the ‘it’ in the first sentence is the mysterious ‘beast’):

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.

And is the ‘mark’ and ‘number of the beast’ some sort of digital code?

Well, we will find out, I suppose. We should keep in mind, as we have mentioned before, that there are many ‘types’ or adumbrations of the end, before the end. The faithful found it nearly impossible to buy or sell in previous eras, unless they submitted to some form of the ‘mark of the beast’, a sign that one had acquiesced to an unjust regime, even rejected the Faith, be it Nero’s Rome and burning incense to the gods; Elizabeth’s England and rejecting the Mass and the Pope; Robespierre’s French Revolution and signing on to murder one’s fellow citizens; Lenin’s Communism with its atheism and socialism. Now, we have Trudeau’s Canada, Biden’s America, Macron’s France, all instantiating laws inimical to the Church and to Christian culture.

These were, and so far are, preludes to the main event. The Faithful could still mostly get by, and still can, but the future is fraught. Yet we’re now living in an age where everything is becoming digitalized, even our experiences, conversations, workplaces. Zuckerberg’s Metaverse is but one reductio ad absurdam, relegating human persons to ethereal ghosts in a machine.

I’m just finished reading a book, ‘The Revenge of Analog’, with analog, of course, being a catch-phrase for the more real, concrete and personal, the opposite of digital realm. The theme is that such analog technologies are in most ways better than the less-real and more virtual. Hence, we see the return of paper, books, board games, LP’s and record players, in-person teaching, conversations, communal meals, hand-made goods and hand-written letters, cash transactions, and so on. Ones and zeroes can only do so much, and we will have more to say on that anon.

Of course, digitalizing the economy offers a particular danger, since such gives the government significant power and control over what we make and do, by having unlimited control over our income. The stage was set decades ago with credit and pin cards, and will only get worse if these become universal, even embedded in our very bodies. Then we, and all of our purchases, can be tracked wherever we go (as is already the case with the ubiquitous and umbilical mobile phones). Already, many locales are becoming cashless.

The ultimate mark of the beast will likely entail not only this loss of freedom and autonomy (bad enough in itself), but also some sort of apostasy. After all, the devil is not really interested in our money or bank account, nor even our mortal bodies. The Evil One only uses these insofar as they are a gateway to our soul, to which he gains access by corrupting our conscience. Once we submit to grave evil, we are his. Hence, the ‘mark’ will be an ‘anti-character’ of the divine marks of our Baptism and Confirmation, a submission to a ‘secular messianism’, in the words of the Catechism, entailing a rejection of Christ, and submission to the Beast, the Antichrist, and ultimately the Devil. How this plays out, we know not, but one’s imagination runs rampant. We have had types of such before, which provide images and a foreshadow, but this will be the final and most dramatic act.

Those who take the beast’s mark, and reject the truth, will think they’re safe and secure. They may be all right for a time, and half a time, but the end, the fate of all flesh will come for us all, even the billionaires hiding out in their bunkers. And we all will be judged on our fidelity to Christ, which in the end is the only thing that matters.

We need not worry, for if we are and remain faithful, we can hold our heads high, praying for His return on the clouds of heaven. We may have to prove that fidelity by suffering in whatever way God so wills, but our reward will be eternal, and beyond our imagining.

So, as Christ warns, stay awake, and, we may add, as real and analog as you might. Use cash wherever you can, barter and trade; refuse tattoos and digital implants of any sort; minimize your mobile phone; get outdoors; exercise in God’s fresh air; cultivate a garden and like-minded friends; play music on real instruments, unplugged, as the saying goes; sing, dance. Live life, in the truth, and in reality. And, most of all, pray always, and immerse yourselves in our Saviour’s salvific revelation, Scripture, the Fathers, the Saints, the perennial teachings of the Church.

God will show us the way through all of this, to truth, and to life.