Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farting into the Apocalyptic winds

One of the most deeply ingrained and cherished parts of the American mythos is that of the rugged individual with his feet firmly rooted in commonsense and his vision forever cast towards an optimistic future. It is a very nice idea and at one time, I actually believe it was true to a great extent. However, things have changed in this country in the last twenty to thirty years making that concept at best outdated and more than likely a desperate delusion. I really have no intention to purposely upset anyone’s mental apple cart but America is no longer a nation that embraces the future but one that cowers in fears both real and imaged.  

If you want examples the very best I can immediately point to was any of the candidates who were seeking the Republican party’s nomination for president of the United States. Listening to the debates at the beginning of current campaign these individuals seeking the highest office in the land writhed in an orgy of fears to a willing audience that screamed in orgasmic glee each time they were mentioned. These fearmongers worried over terroristic boogiemen hiding under the beds of innocent and God-fearing Americans; the current president being an evil villain with nefarious plans to subvert all that is good and holy; to female contraception being some sort of satanic plan. I would be delinquent if I did not mention other republican–inspired fears over the gay agenda to convert the nation one way or the other, public school teachers being both totally incompetent but somehow a dangerous threat to the belief in “American Exceptionalism” , and the international socialist conspiracy over global warming.

All of that dovetails nicely with the Republican, and unfortunately many Democrats, need to bomb the living Hell out of every place on the planet that refuses to play by rules set by our corporate dominated government. Instead of dealing with other nations respectfully its easier to cast them as sinister threats to our precious freedom to buy crap we do not need with credit cards insuring a growing American serfdom.

To be fair and balanced Republicans are not the only group wallowing in the irrational. You cannot go into a bookstore without seeing a new bestseller proclaiming we face some terrible threat to human civilization. Books predicting asteroid impacts to mega-natural disasters are a big favorite along with the latest in apocalyptic Christian fiction where everyone not towing the evangelical line are ground into a bloody pulp by a vengeful, Rambo-like Jesus. Other non-political anxiety-inducing fears include things like pandemics, environmental collapse, massive solar flares destroying all our neat electronic gadgets, and global financial breakdowns to name a very few. Now many of what I listed are real concerns that need to be looked at rationally and met with intelligence and cooperation. The problem is that intelligence and cooperation are in short supply these days. Many people tend to ignore inconvenient truths or want things totally their way with any disagreement seen as a crime.

The most bizarre forms of societal fears come from ancient prophecies. There was a recent time on the History Channel when every other show was about some ancient figure who predicted all our troubles centuries ago. Nostradamus is by far the favorite with thousand of people in the United States pouring over every vague passage this medieval French dude wrote about. Supposedly he foretold hundreds of events from his temporal vantage point centuries ago but we never realize this until well after the fact making him a huge buzzkill. Other secular prophets include some guy named Edgar Casey and even Leonardo Da Vinci who when he was not being a brilliant scientist and artist was, according to some, delving into the occult leaving semi-secret hints of the future for people in our age with way too much time on their hands to discover.

Recently the Mayans were leading the pack with their apparent prediction that there would be no tomorrow after December 21, 2012. All sorts of self-proclaimed experts have written books and appeared on television warming the world about how the supernaturally accurate Mayan calendar was reason enough to show that the priests and shaman in charge of keeping it knew what they were doing. Well now, there is a small problem with that supposition that the world is facing a final deadline this coming December. A recent discover suggests the whole thing might be a bit overblown.

Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6,000 years that could extend well beyond 2012. "Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?" observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., an expert on Mayan astronomy. "You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on." Aveni, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, report the discovery in Friday's issue of the journal Science. The room, a bit bigger than 6-feet square, is part of a large complex of Mayan ruins in the rain forest at Xultun in northeastern Guatemala. The walls also contain portraits of a seated king and some other figures, but it's clear those have no connection to the astronomical writings, the scientists said. One wall contains a calendar based on phases of the moon, covering about 13 years. 

Why bother to do that? Maybe the scribes were "geeks ... who just got carried away with doing these kinds of computations and calculations, and probably did them far beyond the needs of ordinary society," Aveni suggested.Experts unconnected with the discovery said it was a significant advance."It's really a wonderful surprise," said Simon Martin, co-curator of an exhibit about the Mayan calendar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.While the results of the scribes' work were known from carvings on monuments, "we've never really been able to identify a working space, or how they actually went about things," Martin said.The new work gives insight into that, he said, and the fact the room had a stone roof rather than thatching supports previous indications that the scribes enjoyed a high social standing."It's a very important discovery. We're only getting a glimpse of it" in the published paper, said John B. Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy in College Park, Md."This is an intriguing start for this discovery." 

Of course, none of this excuses the unhealthy American preoccupation with the world coming to an end. Whether you want to blame it on simple and willful ignorance or a child-like petulance that since things are not going completely our way we will just give up I have no idea. But whatever the case it does not bode well for our ability to face our fears and solve them. 


Pixel Peeper said...

It's not all coming to an end? You mean I have to go to work tomorrow?

Windsmoke. said...

It all sounds like propaganda to get you to toe the line or else the sky will in, which i doubt very much. According the Mayan Calendar the world is going to end on 21st of December 2012. What i would like to know is how it is all going to end?, and does anybody really know?. :-).

Pearl said...


I am so tired of the fear, the finger-pointing, the paranoia. What a fearful group of mice we can be...

And don't get me started on American Exceptionalism. The arrogance of its proponents knocks me sideways.


Collin Hinds said...

Here's my thought on the Mayan calendar. They ran out of room. After it was carved into a disk of stone they called it a good day's work and didn't have to worry about making another one for a few generations. Who the hell knows? In any event, I will not be liquidating my assets or quitting my day job any time soon.

Randal Graves said...

Doomsday's just funny.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Grown up! Sheesh, why you gotta be all responsible and stuff and expect grown up people to be reasonable? :):)

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: No, its got to hold together until I make it to Belize, or even better Tierra del Fuego. After that I wash my hands of the all the mess.

Windsmoke: According to the article I attached to my rant a new discovery says the Mayan calender goes on way past the 2012 deadline.

Pearl: Yeah, we are a paranoid bunch to the extreme. Part me thinks its from the fact that once you become king of the human mound of ants the only way to go then is down.

Collin: Like I mentioned to Windsmoke the attached article says the Mayan calender goes on a lot longer than the popular media wants us to believe.

Randal: Yeah, made even funnier by the fact so many want it to come, like my Bible thumping brother.

Life As We Know It: Good point, Hell we might actually solve some of our problems if we did.

Ranch Chimp said...

***** UNRELATED NOTE: Hey Bum, you were talkin about airing and fixin a flat the other day. I was with a buddy earlier today in his car, when he caught a nail in his tire while we were in a shop. There just happened to be a "Discount Tire" store down the block, we went there to get air, and they will actually patch and fix your tire for "free" or just even give it "air" (I didnt know this before), but we pulled in the 1st bay (which is just a bay alone for that) they took the tire off and patched it in like 5 minute's man and told us, they do this for free whether you bought the tire's from them or not, their a nationwide chain.

Later man, getting late ....

Robert the Skeptic said...

thirty years ago I heard a lecture by Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. Aside from the humorous TV show outtakes, he lectured about civilizations - specifically that they all evolve and die out, eventually replaced by something else.

Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman (long list) had their rise and fall. Some of Roddenberry's ideas ended up as scripts for Star Trek. He believed were there a complete world-wide nuclear Holocaust, some people would survive and a new civilization would grow from that rubble.

Hey, I just finished playing "Fallout New Vegas".

lime said...

ha! i love the idea of some mayan nerds just going to town on their version of a chalkboard. can't you see them with taped up glasses and all.

Beach Bum said...

Ranch: That was cool!

Robert: I keep hoping humans will break this cycle of collapsing civilizations. It does not say much for our intelligence.

Lime: I like the cartoon I saw once of two Mayans talking about their calender ending. One guy worries about future generations taking it as a sign of the end of the world, the other guy laughs and say no one would be that stupid.