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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Game Over, Man! – Has Doom & Gloom Come All Too Soon?

So one day, the seas rise up and swallow the Earth. The end.

It sounds like an idea from Michael Bay’s head, which is like throwing a brick into a tumble dryer, with much the same outcome. But just like that knockoff Transformers franchise Bay chundered, we revel in the theory all the same, and it all points one way: we hit the high score list on 21 December 2012. Cue groans from the audience. Yeah, the apocalypse thing’s been done—but where did we get this idea from? Is there some grain of reason behind the end-game shenanigans? Should we subscribe to the notions of these doomsayers? Or should we send them back to their room to have a good long think about what they’ve done?

Let’s start from the roots of all of this hysterical flailing.

The Mayan Calendar theory was one of the first to give the definitive date on the matter. Their calendar was based on the Long Count Calendar, which essentially shows time’s progression from point A to B, like a countdown clock. It was how the Mayans kept track of their birthdays and rubbish days and what have you. The Mayan Calendar began on 11 August 3114 BC, and will end on 23 December 2012, thus cataloging 5125 years, and the common perception goes that when the Mayan calendar comes to an end, so will mankind. In reality, the ending of the calendar isn’t what the big hootenanny is all about.

The Mayans saw time as being cylindrical: it would loop around in cycles, which are arranged in ‘b’aktuns’ of thirteen, equating to roughly 5125 years of our time. They believed that the end of the thirteenth b’aktun on 11 August 3114 BC was the beginning of the ‘fourth world’, where we now exist and are living in and having wild parties in, et cetera. It just so happens that the end of the thirteenth b’aktun for the fourth world is on 21 December 2012. That’s when, according to Mayan tradition, the fourth world ‘comes to an end’, which we have chosen to interpret as “HOLY SWEET MERCIFUL FUCK IT’S OVER MAAAAAN.”

This goes directly against all the common depictions of the 2012 phenomenon, which are that the world will essentially call it a day when the countdown timer hits zero. In reality, though, all it really was to the Mayans was cause for a great celebration—the equivalent of New Year’s, Hanukkah and your birthday rolled into a bauble of glitter and moonshine. It was like Y2K for them: they made it to 5125 years as a civilization, and damnit, they were going to party like it was 20 AD. There are heaps more theories, and I could fill up a whole magazine of them. The fact is most of them just aren’t holding any water. They all range from voodoo mumbo-jumbo to planetary collisions. But the kicker is just that: there are no gold nuggets in this cavern of theories. It’s almost like a game of Lotto—you have no idea what’s going to happen until it happens. So why do we so readily believe that the end is near? What, aside from the facts and even the fiction, kick-starts a fear of such crackpot theories?

It can be reasoned, with the recent natural disasters in Christchurch and Japan, and the political turbulence in the Middle East, that the stock-standard paranoia has simply escalated. In psychological terms, this is known as pareidolia. It is the same principle as seeing your alphabet soup spell out ‘DIE’ and presuming your own death is impending. The act of pareidolia is such that the culmination of completely arbitrary events leads to the jackrabbit assumption that we might as well call it a day and close shop. Without any hard evidence, we wave the white flag. And yes, an earthquake counts as an arbitrary event. Calm your tits.

It could also just be our own mortality that’s causing us all to freak out. We’re just fleshy human beings, after all. We lose our keys; we can’t remember if we left the oven on; we put our limbs in places we shouldn’t. Generally speaking, we aren’t putting the sharpest machete to the intellectual thicket, and when it comes to ‘the end’, our first and utmost priority is ourselves. It can take the form of our family, our possessions, our own wellbeing, but there’s something egotistical about how when everything goes tits-up, we pat ourselves down first. When it comes to Apocalypse Now, we wipe the slate and jump back to ‘survival of the fittest’ mode.

Every religion and ideology has their own ideas on the end times, but all of them seem to factor into our lifetime. Every generation seems to have one of those “the-end-is-nigh” freak-outs where everyone jumps the gun; nowadays, it’s getting to the point where the boy who cried ‘wolf’ has just recorded it on tape so he can loop it to the masses whenever he gets bored. The 2012 phenomenon is fraught with scepticism, and why shouldn’t it be? Aside from Y2K, swine flu, economic implosions, we seem to be hunky-dory. Not exactly in pristine condition, but whatever, we play the cards we’re dealt.

Like it or lump it, it becomes a question of whether you believe in the evidence and opinions of people that know buckets more than you do. It’s also about whether you eat the myth sandwich the world has placed in front of you with extra helpings of faith relish. Needless to say, 2012 is the Rebecca Black of popular prophecy—getting way more attention than it deserves, and crushing our souls at that. The best we can do is close our eyes, block our ears and scream ‘Tiptoe Through The Tulips’ at the top of our lungs until the whole thing goes away.

As for me, I’m keeping my fallout shelter. If any belief is certain, it’s Murphy’s Law.

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  1. Brenda Helliwell says:

    …was just doing some searching about this. like your write up a lot. had many a laugh along the way. :)

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