So the end of the Mayan long count came and went. We started another b’ak’tun and nothing terribly unusual happened.
Around the world, people held end-of-the-world parties. Some were serious. Most were just looking for a reason to party. Some were looking to sell T-shirts.
Did people really want the world to end? Some do, no doubt, but most don’t.
So why was this international news for months, nay years (it had its own major motion picture)? Why the obsession with a thousand year old relic? Why are people sporting “I brake for zombies” bumper stickers? Okay that’s another unrelated doomsday event, but it relates to my major point.
It’s because people are hoping for a change. We are still recovering from the worst economic collapse since the Depression, with millions of people homeless and out of work — hell, entire countries went bankrupt. We see daily reminders of global warming: arctic ice disappearing, glaciers receding, record high temperatures, record low temperatures, record drought, record storms. We see religious fundamentalism spreading and surging, in countries which used to be moderate (oh, Egypt). We see people angry and disturbed enough to massacre schoolchildren. We see North Korea and Iran racing toward a nuclear future and, outside of opening up another war we can’t afford, there is little we can do to stop them. If that isn’t enough, Pakistan is already packin’ and they are rife with terrorists who would love to have a few nukes of their own.
Then we hear we are overdue for a super volcano, and a super earthquake, and a super asteroid. All those have happened in the past and there is nothing stopping them from happening tomorrow… other than luck and long odds.
And now we hear about a threat we have always had, but only recently found out about: coronal mass ejections. These things happen all the time, but most miss us. Sometimes they don’t, and can be big enough to fry satellites or blow out an electrical grid. As our world becomes more and more wired we become more and more vulnerable to them.
In short, we live like we are masters of the universe but deep down, we know we are not. Our world is fragile. We are fragile.
The English word “apocalypse” comes from the ancient Greek “apokalypsis“, which is an unveiling of something hidden. From there we get “revelation”, and then to the Biblical book of the same name, and from there the global catastrophe that the Biblical book describes. This etymological evolution isn’t unusual — look at the English word ‘awful‘.
Therefore, by the original definition we really did have an apocalypse today.
It was an unveiling of how generally freaked out we all are about the future of Earth, a microscopic blue flyspeck on the bay window of the universe, and — since we haven’t figured out how to get off said flyspeck yet — our future too.
Since we can’t do anything about asteroids or CMEs, and our leaders don’t want to change economic policy because that would piss off their campaign donors, and invading countries to force democracy on them is just not working — we need to focus on aliens.
I prefer aliens to zombies because zombies don’t have spaceships. No, I’m not an anti-zombite, I’m just being practical here.
So to any aliens who read this post: I’m willing to represent my species. Take me with you. And say Hi to Elvis for me.