Friday, March 18, 2011

Pardon the Rant: 2012 is so last century

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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pardon the Rants

Updated: Fixed a couple of grammatical errors, and outlined what "Step 9" is explicitly.

Ed. note: I have received a lot of comments on this post via email/Facebook, and I will try to respond to them in a subsequent post later this week. The original post is below...


I was mildly irritated a few days ago, at many things. I had so wished to be in front of a computer, writing my thoughts down. The one-liners, snarktastic streams of bile-ridden words, and insulting innuendos were coming one after the other. It was epic, stinging commentary on the nature of the world.

But it was Friday, and a tsunami happened. Soon, I was glued to a television, watching the latest in a series of seismic-related disasters to affect our world. It may deserve reminding that Chile and Haiti had devastating earthquakes in 2010. And don't forget New Zealand's earlier this year. And the Haiti earthquake killed on the order of 100,000 people, which is two orders of magnitude higher than Japan's (so far). Thus, calling the Japan event the "worst ever" is simply not true, both in casualties and quantification of physical (scientific) variables. Having said that, the footage from Japan is just gut-wrenching. Some of the most dramatic footage ever filmed of a tsunami -- scenes that before this past week, I would say were products of CGI. Another cataclysmic event in a world seemingly full of them right now.

Not exactly the most heartwarming introduction to a post full of rants. Nevertheless, I begin with a rant regarding the "supernatural" and the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.

I see a lot of people a lot of the time saying that life is beautiful, and their god or gods are so gloriously good for blessing them with such fortunes. But I never see this god or these gods under ridicule when events of this magnitude occur, particularly when that person is involved. So how come this god or these gods get all the credit for the good stuff, and none of the credit for the bad stuff? (Of course, one response is the typical "God works in mysterious ways" cop-out, a comment which I scorn to the very fibers of my nonsupernatural being.)

Seriously, where is "God" or the gods in this discussion? Why the hell should he (He) be lauded for his successes when there are clearly so many calamities? And, as I have been told on occasion, if this is indeed the work of the "Devil" or whatever, what does that say about the power of this god?

Some people have attacked the problem head-on. Those of the ilk of Glenn Beck have decided to insist that "God" is sending us a message of some sort. How is this not as ridiculous as the members of the Westboro Baptist Church claiming that the deaths of our soldiers are the result of homosexuals? And shouldn't the message be a little clearer? Does "He" have a problem with the Japanese? With the world? With island inhabitants? And what would this problem, or these problems, be? And why not just tell the world, or the Japanese, or island inhabitants, or whatever, what the problem is?

You know what I think this message from "God" is? That "He" doesn't exist. At least, that's the message that provides me with the most comfort. Because one who allows for these events, or even purposely constructs them, is a supernatural being worthy of scorn and rebuke, not our impassioned love and irrational support.

The fact that this event can be explained, entirely actually, by natural events/causes is also a sign, I would think.

This brings me to a follow-up. Why do people insist upon praying for others' well-being? Instead of praying for them, why don't you actually DO something? Instead of praying for the Japanese, donate some money to help relief efforts. Hell, if you're particularly devoted, why don't you actually go over to Japan and personally help them out? (I actually know someone who is making plans to do just that.) Praying may help you out, but it certainly isn't doing a damn thing to help those who are actually being affected by this catastrophe.

Next rant? How in the world is the Michigan "martial law" episode not getting more press in our country? This is a move that is downright totalitarian! (If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this CBS article.) This is a move reminiscent of rising dictatorial power, and in fact, virtually ALL rising dictatorships appoint people to positions of power that were previously elected offices. Am I saying that the Michigan governor plans to overthrow the government and become a dictator? No. But it is a significant step in a direction that points that way.

In college, I took an Aztec history class, from a professor who was an expert in Aztec warfare. I took this class during the Iraq invasion in 2003, and he said that America had reached step 9 in the 10-step decline of a civilization (Step 9 being unsubstantiated and financially unsupported invasion of a new territory). Step 10 was overthrowing elected officials, which commonly started at a local level. This would be Step 10 in action.

Now, I'm not saying that America as we know it will be gone forever. And one way that I hope I can keep from saying that is for the complete and utter contempt for this form of governing. This is absolutely outrageous, and should be immediate cause for (1) court action and (possibly, or if necessary) (2) removal from office. That being the governor, not the elected officials the governor wants to get rid of.

Now I could rant about my complete lack of faith in the Obama administration, and Democrats in general, but Chuck has done that eloquently on his blog.