The Latest Apocalypse

Mayan CalendarWatching a History Channel show about the Mayan prophecies about the end of the world, which apparently will happen in 2012.  On December 21, to be exact.  This will be the greatest and most horrific global apocalypse since the world ended on 5/5/05, 5/11/01, and 1/1/2000, and will certainly surpass the global catastrophe that destroyed civilization in 1843.  And that’s not even counting the Jupiter Effect of the 80’s, or the Harmonic Convergence.  And by my count, California sank into the sea at least three times in the late 1970’s.

But the biggest question I have about the Mayan prophecies that they’re recounting on this special as "confirmed" (for sufficiently loose definitions of the term "confirmed") is, why on Earth would ancient Mayan prophecies relate primarily to American political events?  Seriously.  Each one of the prophecies this special recounts relate to American events, such as the Civil War, or the assassination of JFK.  Why?  Here’s one such prophecy:

There is trouble in the land once again. This Katun ((A Katun, for what it’s worth, is a 20-year period of time within the Mayan cyclical calendar)) brings drought, famine, and is a time of foreign occupation, change, and sadness.

Now, if you’re going to move the goalposts to the point where these prophecies apply to a nation and culture that wasn’t even conceived of when it was written, then why not move them even further to the entire world?  But then you have to admit that such conditions are endemic the world over at all times; there has not been a time in human history when some culture was not facing drought, famine, invasion, and so on.  It’s just cold readings — the Barnum effect — applied to prophecy.

And the main thing that always bugs me about this sort of thing: if this civilization’s prophecies were so accurate, then how could they have been scooped by the European invaders?  Seriously.  It’s like the Psychic Friends Network going broke and declaring bankruptcy.  You’d think that they’d have foreseen that.  Or at least something like, "Hm, I can’t foresee us doing any predictions after this particular date; I wonder why that is?"

I just wonder sometimes how barking mad you have to be to seriously believe in this sort of thing.  Do such believers continually tell themselves, "Well, so-and-so was wrong about the world ending at Y2K, and 5/11/2001 passed without a blip, but surely these Mayan prophecies will justify my purchase of a bomb shelter and year’s worth of canned goods!"

Seriously.  If there weren’t figures in the upper echelons of our government who believed in the similarly ridiculous Dominionist idea of the Rapture — the right-wing Christian version of this same sort of doomsaying — I’d just find this tendency laughable.