I was actually going to add this particular rant in with my hotly contested rant-rage of my last post, but I decided to give this one its own piece.
After the Japan quake, there were many -- and I mean many -- people who made the so-clever-it-never-was-clever reference to 2012. Soon, I began to see silly ways of adding up 21st century disasters to the Mayan end date. First, I should note that it's not 2012 yet, if there is any confusion. Second, and more sincerely, haven't we referenced this "end of the world" bogusness enough?
I've heard 2012 jokes since I can remember, and this was before the Y2K shenanigans began. Remember those? At least those were based on genuine fears of technological disruption. There was even a TV movie made about it, airing in 1993. (I remember, because there were previews of it during the Cheers series finale.) I had friends who were petrified that 1 January 2000 would bring about weeks, months, or years of global chaos. Instead, we shot off fireworks in a youthful drunken stupor.
We've made another (embarrassingly bad) film, now about 2012. The movie was as serious as can be, but I'm sure its makers do not honestly believe the world would end in 2012. And no one who makes jokes about it actually means it. But -- why are we making movies about it, and still joking about it light years after its cleverness whittled away?
I propose a few theories. (1) Some people think it's funnier the closer we get to the event. I have a rebuttal. The more you tell the joke, the fewer laughs it will receive. It is, in fact, like hearing the same song on the radio ten times in a day. You'll never want to hear the tune again. Classic example? Free Fallin'. "Well, I'm free. Free fallin'." Over and over and over and over again. It's not good once. It's scratching a chalk board ten times. Same with this.
(2) Some people are not completely convinced it is untrue. Superstition is a human flaw as a result of a biological necessity. We are aware of our mortality, paranoid of death and harm, and often we seem to provide mysticism toward it. The idea of heaven and hell, gods controlling nature, pre-game routines, stepping on concrete blocks rather than the cracks between them -- all are steeped in our genuine and biologically useful need to be aware of potential dangers and eventual death. Unfortunately, we take it too far. We tend to cling to it, even without evidence. Groupthink brings about an idea that festers for so much longer than it should.
Get off the paranoia bandwagon and join the masses who realize that the Mayans may not have known everything about how the world works. Please.
(3) Some people like to be reminded about the precarious nature of our existence. I feel that this is healthy, for the most part. We should remember that our existence is tenuous, at best, with frequent (seemingly random) reminders through natural disasters or anthropogenic conflicts. The Japanese earthquake/tsunami is a dramatic example of nature completely demolishing large chunks of very developed peoples and societies. In the end, the earth will always win.
Then again, O(~10,000) people perished in the event. The earth has O(~7,000,000,000) people residing in it. So, get real.
When I read blogs or op-eds about societal calamities or end-of-civilization macabres created by socio-political clashes, I frequently roll my eyes. Hyperbole, more often than not. We live in very troubled times, and there are genuine threats to our civilization's longevity. Then again, there are a lot of people around that are pretty reasonable and have the intellectual capability and, more importantly, the drive necessary to prevent such a future. We aren't dead yet, in other words, and it WILL take a lot for us to get to that point. Being worried about our "end" is healthy, but let's not get too carried away. Yet.
I should note here, in somewhat of an aside, that if there is any talk about the fall of civilizations in the current age, they will be the direct result of a biological/ecological truth. We (humans) are overpopulating the planet. The greatest danger to our existence is ourselves. Namely, how many of ourselves we have and how many more we will make. Want to help prolong our existence? Reproduce less!
But back to the original point. It is healthy to remember our existence is not guaranteed. But referencing 2012 does not give such an argument a lot of credibility.
And it's just not funny. Never was.