The apocalypse challenge – day 5: The Mayan Doomsday

Enough music, films and TV. Serious times call for serious topics.

This is day 5 of my apocalypse challenge. Over 10 days, I’m posting about catastrophes and almost-armageddons which had a big influence on me personally, and that also nearly destroyed the world.


The Apocalypse Challenge:

Day 5 –The 2012 Mayan Doomsday

History is chock-full of predictions about how and when the world will end. There are so many, that scanning through a list of them on Wikipedia involves more scrolling than you might be prepared for.

But every once in a while, one of these prognostications rises to the surface, like the one from a few years ago about the Mayans – a society from thousands of years ago centered around what is today parts of Mexico and Central America. Apparently – despite their technological limitations – they created a very accurate solar/lunar calendar which ended abruptly on 20.12.2012. This, the panic-mongers told us, would be the end of the Earth’s life-cycle. The planet would perish from a meteor strike, or from a sudden reversing of the globe’s rotation, or some other unforeseen cosmic cataclysm. Whatever it was – it was going to be bad. People took this seriously enough that NASA created a webpage to debunk it and Hollywood made a typically terrible film about it.

The poster for the movie shows a Tibetan monk serenely observing the end of days from the lofty moral high ground of a mountain top, underneath the caption: “WE WERE WARNED.” It’s an image that offers plenty of insight into why people bought into this particular end 0f the world narrative. It’s a basic new-age revenge fantasy. On the one hand, you have an ancient and noble civilization living in peace and harmony with their environment. On the other, you have invading, modern, technology-obsessed westerners. The Mayans may have been conquered by the evil guns of the west, but mother nature has a way of evening things out in the end.

Except none of this is a fair representation of history.

Mayan society, truth be told, was very far from being some kind of utopian ideal. Sure, they made a nice calendar, but they also engaged in slavery, mass warfare and were really big on human sacrifice. There’s also research showing they did loads of damage to the ecosystem – cutting down vast swathes of the rainforest. In short, they were kind of a bunch of assholes. Just like the Europeans. Just like pretty much every society. And that’s what most end-of-the-world prophecies are really all about: trying to scare people into stopping being assholes before it’s too late.

You were warned.

 

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