Wednesday, January 21, 2009


So the theory goes that the world is going to end in 2012. Why? Because the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar ends then. Well, okay, technically it doesn't end then, it just rolls over to a higher order. But the theory goes like this;
  1. The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar ends in 2012
  2. They wouldn't have ended the calendar unless they had a reason
  3. The reason is obviously that they believed the world would end
  4. Therefor, the world is going to end
There's obviously a problem with 1, because it's simply not true. There's also a big problem with 2; it would be like saying that the world is going to end in 9999 A.D. The problem with 3 ... well, I've just given you an alternate reason for limiting the count - it's for the same reason that I don't specify that I'm on the planet Earth when people ask me where I am.

Point 4 is the part that I have the biggest problem with. Even if the Mayans had set up the Long Count calendar to "end" in 2012 because they believed that the world was going to end, there would be no rational reason to follow them in that belief. Think about it - what could they possibly have known that we do not know? Nothing.

But what's really interesting to me is not the belief - it's the people who hold the belief. This is, of course, not the first doomsday prediction. The last big one was in 1999, when people thought that the second millennium would come to the end and take down the world with it. Jesus was to descend from the sky, Y2K was going to destroy all the computers, etc. This obviously did not happen. So here we are, eight years later, and the doomsaying is starting up again.

What's the appeal of the Apocalypse? My theory is that the feeling of impending doom is able to replace - or perhaps supplement - the tremendous feeling inadequacy when faced with the future. Specifically, in these times we face huge amounts of change, along with huge amounts of information. This is hard for us to handle. Anticipating the future becomes harder with each passing year, and we have less and less time to prepare for the changes as they sweep over us. But if we accept that the world will end in a few years, then we don't have to worry about the future.

It's not just this 2012 stuff either - it's the fear of nuclear war, or a killer plague, or global warming. Those are legitimate concerns, and we're trying to prevent all of them, but to some people it's just another shortcut to not thinking about what the future holds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good commentary and insights on an
interesting subject.