As December 21, 2012, the date coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar, and by implication the end of the world, draws near, the hysteria becomes more palpable.
Blame it on delusional prophets who are dying for publicity and have nothing better to do, the gullible minds who believe them, and the better-thinking majority who don’t challenge the veracity of the hypothetical doomsday.
Although Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, says that even archaeologists “have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end” in 2012, there are some individuals who are convinced, despite the lack of any evidence, that it will.
This is not the first time that visions of Armageddon, mostly by Christian fundamentalists, have been espoused. In 1844, William Miller, a Baptist preacher, pronounced the Second Coming and, by extension, the end of the world between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.
The year between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844 came and went without incidence. Embarrassingly, if not appropriately, Miller’s failed prediction became known as the Great Disappointment.
More than a hundred years later, another preacher, William Branham, declared the year “1977 ought to terminate the world systems,” and also predicted “the city of Los Angeles would ‘sink beneath the ocean’ and that a tidal wave would sweep inland as far as the Salton Sea.”
Unfortunately, none of these predictions came true (unfortunate because the floodwaters would have, at least, washed away the grime of LA’s polluted streets), and it begs the question, if fundamentalist Christians got it wrong, then how can we be sure the Mayans were correct?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, why do people who should know better- college-educated professionals or, at least, the well-informed citizenry of this Information Age (their critical thinking skills are much sharper than that of the average Bible literalist)-cringe at the possibility that this doomsday might come true. Or they entertain the thought in public but in private, are certain that it won’t happen.
These same individuals think the 2012 prophecy makes stimulating cocktail party conversation. I don’t think so. I picture a bunch of adults sipping cocktails and chatting about impending doom quite sad. It reminds me of a line from a Prince song, “Nothing comes from talkers but sound.”
People have such short memories when it comes to the end of the world. Well, let me refresh those short memories.
Nearly a decade ago, Gary North, another Christian alarmist, warned: “At twelve midnight on January 1st, 2000, most of the world’s mainframe computers will either shut down or begin spewing out bad data. Hundreds of millions of pre-programmed computer chips will begin to shut down the systems they automatically control. This will create a nightmare for every area of life in every region of the industrialized world… banks, railroads, public utilities, telephone lines, military communications, and financial markets.”
Remember all that? No?
After a publicized non-event as Y2K, it should make the average citizen ask the alarmist, who do you think you are in saying the world will end? Because no level of authority-scientific or not-can predict such a large-scale event.
It’s like a complete stranger having the gall to approach you on a sidewalk, and telling you, you’re gonna die tomorrow. If it’s not religious arrogance, it’s mental illness.
Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, says that to interpret December 21, 2012, as the end of the world is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”
So if idiot preachers and their cerebrally challenged followers aren’t predicting the end of the world, they are profiting from it.
Take the “88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988” (published in 1981) by another evangelist who wanted his fifteen minutes of fame, Edgar Whisenant.
Moreover, Hollywood is profiting from the hysteria with the upcoming release of the movie, “2012”, with the usual publicity, online and off, to draw the masses into the theaters.
End-of-the-world prophecies might make interesting cocktail party conversation but not good reality. It diverts us from intelligent discussion or scientific investment in truth (in a world already steeped in so many false beliefs).
Without actual evidence, we indulge in hearsay. Such doomsday hysteria makes us more stupid as a species.
Besides cluttering up impressionable minds, the 2012 prophecy is a red herring. It distracts us from real problems, it distracts us from asking ourselves, Will the future be secure? Will I have a job? Will I be laid off? How will I survive?
Like sex or pot or even chocolate, a distraction can be pleasurable, or like lucha libre or Technicolor scenes of doomsday in an epic film, a distraction can also be spectacular. But these scenes exist only in the fantasy of the mind. Once we shuffle out of the movie theater, it is back to reality.
Cristo De Guzman is a City Times staff writer