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Are We Dead Yet?

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Are We Dead Yet?

Andrew Ryan

You may or may not have heard that the world was supposed to end this weekend just gone. An 89 year old American Christian made his second Day of Judgement prediction, (the first one was a bit off it would seem) and it spread around the internet as quickly as the earthquake he claimed would kill us all. But, Saturday came and went, nothing happened, the earth didn’t shake and fall apart, we’re not underwater, and we’re left with the world exactly how it was before.

Why is it that these doomsday theories are so fucking commonplace? What drives people to proclaim to the world they’re going to ascend to heaven on a certain date, and why do they keep trying when they don’t come true?

Regular readers might be familiar with my lack of religious beliefs. I believe in no god. And so it follows that I do not have faith in the words of any text that references the existence of a god to be true, or the people who claim to be in contact with one. There is medication available for people who hear voices in their head that are not their own, and the only difference between a preacher man and the crazy guy down the street wearing a sandwich board is that the preacher man has been taught to effectively manipulate other people in order to gain followers in an institution that applauds a well considered approach to crazy talk. The success of religion relies on the fear that most human beings have of their own mortality, and an inability to accept that we are not more important than any other life form on the planet.

So it makes sense to me that the proliferation of doomsday theories is based on that same manipulation. History shows that religious groups in which a prediction is made for the end of the world show a higher level of commitment to their beliefs, regardless of the failure of the prediction. There is a verse in the bible that allows believers to just ignore a failed prediction, because it was obviously not really god who spoke through the guy who made the prediction, but that is subject to how the failed prophet explains his mistakes (see mathematical interpretation). Or they are encouraged to think it was the strength of their faith that saved the Earth, THIS TIME, so just keep on believing guys, okay? The doomsday theorists keep an impressive amount of control over their flocks with that shit, the threat of eternal damnation always as far away as the door from the church into the real world.

But what about non-religious doomsday theories? Millions of people believe “something” will happen in 2012, based on Mayan texts, “science” and hearsay. I admit that I was totally obsessed with the idea a few years ago, mainly because the idea of a “consciousness shift” all those new-agers were talking about completely appealed to my sense of bewilderment at the state of society. But with time, and research, I quickly realised it’s just another in a long list of theories about the future that are based purely on discontent with the present, and a desire for change, ANY CHANGE, just give me some change man. I wouldn’t mind scrounging through the rubble of collapsed cities for food, just so long as I don’t have to deal with electronic money anymore etc.

I do not like the state of the world. I think there is a lot of room for economic, environmental and social improvement. Millions of others feel the same way, but everyone has a different idea of how those improvements should be made. A shift of consciousness could mean anything, and sure, a major shift could definitely happen in 2012… but in reality, it has always been happening, human ideas about the world are constantly changing, and there was always going to be a different attitude to the world in 2012 than there was 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Mayan texts have been interpreted to spell the end of the world in 2012, totally ignoring all the differences between our cultures, the possibility of mistranslation, and the often overlooked motivation of any individual making these end-of-days claims. How much money has been made from the whole 2012 thing? FUCKING HEAPS. Because the promise of excitement is very appealing.

I suppose that’s what it boils down to, the problem with this whole concept of future predictions is that planning for the future is much more exciting, and far less troublesome, than living in the present. Talking about the future is easier than taking action right now, and it becomes a habit. In terms of predicting the end of the world, we can make a claim- based on mathematics in the bible or whatever- and wait with bated breath for an earthquake or a tsunami or a comet or a planet or a religious icon to hit, and when nothing happens, we’re so PLEASED, because even if we really want to be in heaven already, we’re still alive and it feels fucking good. We escaped death again. Adrenaline kicks in- the world is a bit brighter and we’re more appreciative of our lives. Until reality creeps back in to our line of vision, and we get that itch to think about what the future might be like again…

And so it goes, and will keep going on, until something changes in the way we deal with our understanding of time. Did you hear about that Amazonian tribe that has no concept of time outside of seasons? How amazing is that? But my rant about constructed time understandings shall be saved for another time. Instead, let us muse on the next predicted day of judgement: October 21st, 2011. Originally the date that all the sinners would perish and be sent to hell, the non event that was May 21st now means that heavenly ascension and hellish damnation are now being rushed on the same day. I look forward to the result of this failure. If we’re lucky, maybe the old guy who predicted it will kill himself and all his followers to stay true to his word, and the world shall be rid of a whole bunch of genes that are really doing us no favours.

Brutal maybe, but this is what I BELIEEEEEVE TO BE TRUE. Hallelujah.