Time is running out… (to come up with a better doomsday prediction)

When most people picture “the end of the world,” chances are that they think of the Maya prediction scheduled for December 21st, 2012.  For years, people have been buzzing about this doomsday prediction for our poor Earth – and let’s face it, it’s not getting any younger.  But with so many different interpretations of the famed, rapidly-approaching date, it’s hard to sort out the cold, hard facts from the not-so-scientifically-based stories.  And according to the Exit Mundi website, which a collection of end-of-the-world articles based in the Netherlands (linked here), there really aren’t that many facts to go on.  The website states that the majority of the books written by the Maya were destroyed during the Spanish conquests, so while it is clear that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, 2012, there are no specific predictions regarding the events taking place on that day.  So does this make the situation better because we are, in a sense, saved from disaster by using the lack of specificity in their writings as a sort of loophole? Or is it far worse because the collective minds of 7 billion people with a common fear have the opportunity to come together and create an end-of-the-world scenario that is simultaneously more creative, horrific, and complicated than anything the Mayas could have come up with?

A climate news blog article with a social-psychology twist written by P. Gosselin explores the idea that there are people that actually thrive on the idea that the world is ending.  Gosselin takes a surprisingly Baudrillard-ian stance; she talks about how a lot of people are unhappy with the current state of the world, and actually welcome a catastrophe that will essentially wipe the earth clean and allow for a new start (of course, the world only ends for everyone else.  Somehow every individual alarmist considers themselves exempt from the inevitable destruction of the remainder of humanity).  I find this idea extremely similar to the point Baudrillard makes about 9/11 – that although the event was a tragedy, humanity was simply holding its breath for the opportunity to remove the current power source in order to rebuild it differently.  The blog (linked here) offers really interesting and well-researched insight into alarmist psychology and allows one to view the doomsday prophecies from more of an internal, psychological perspective instead of considering the concept of the end of the world to be an uncontrolled external phenomenon.

And while many groups take advantage of those who buy into end-of-the-world histrionics and drive them to cult-like extremes, sometimes it’s nice to see a couple groups that send a different message.  “Only few are willing to exchange their unjust beliefs for the just truth.  One’s life is one’s personal responsibility. The ascension of life is a personal responsibility to act in time.”  This quote was taken from a Christian website that encourages people to make better decisions as December 21st draws closer (you can read more here).  That definitely does not mean that the attitude of the website is one of “reserve your spot in Heaven now, before it’s too late!” – I definitely did not feel like the author was trying to sell me religion.  The tone of the passage is more of a realistic reassurance that we don’t know what’s going to happen in 2012.  Nobody does.  And I really like that attitude.  In a world of people trying to push their own version of reality down everyone’s throats, this feels extremely refreshing to read.

After doing some research on 2012, I am definitely less concerned about it.  The more I learn about social and cultural psychology, the easier it is to deconstruct something that seems a lot more intimidating than it is.  While there is always more to research regarding the accuracy of the Maya’s previous predictions, etc., etc., I think that the majority of the end-of-the-world hype exists inside our own heads, and it would do the world some good to reflect inward rather than seeking out cult leaders or other authority figures to tell us what we need to prepare for.

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