2012 and All That January 24, 2012Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary , trackback
The Beachcombings’ last aupair but one wanted to go back to school and get a degree as a midwife (which in itself begs all kinds of questions) but was holding off till 2013: ‘I don’t want to waste my time if the world is about to end’ she usefully explained. Beach should add that she was a bright, talented girl with the work ethic of a Weberian protestant.
From what Beach can understand the 2012 craze is based on a misreading of Mesoamerican texts and even if it were based on a correct reading of Mesoamerican texts he wouldn’t be much concerned. Since going to an evangelical church as a youngster he has constantly heard and read about the coming end of the world and, of course, almost every generation of Christians have indulged in similar conceits. The 2012 party then is, read by cry-wolf Beach, as an updated version of a very old western obsession: the vanity to believe that we are the last generation and that we are, therefore, ‘special’.
As we noted above almost every Christian generation has believed passionately in the imminent drawing of the divine curtains: heck, Revelations may have been written with Nero cast as Antichrist. However, there is at least one interesting exception to this that Beach finds it hard to get his head around. In the fifth and sixth century the Roman Empire fell hard and fast and there really was an apocalypse. The Roman economy was ground to pieces, cities emptied – urban life ended, infrastructure broke down, the monied economy ceased, bricks and tiles were replaced with wood, economic nets reaching to China and India gave way to anemic local barter and in some areas the post-Romans even lost the ability to produce pottery. In short, the Mediterranean world and its appendages were dragged kicking and screaming into the Middle Ages.
By rights the clergy and bishops and monks of that time should have gone into apocalypse overdrive. After all, this was not just the threat of fossil fuels running out in twenty years or a volcano two continents away: it was the end of the world here and now. And yet they were strangely reserved. They did not ignore Christian eschatological teachings: the world would end eventually and they politely acknowledged that fact. Yet surprisingly they did not interpret the events around them as ‘signs’ of the imminent return of Christ or the arrival of that loveable rogue (ahem!) the Antichrist: the end is nigh was completely absent, there were no sandwich boards in the fifth century. Was there some underlying reluctance on the part of late antique civilisation to get down and dirty with apocalypse or was it just a predictable human trait: faced with the real thing you talk and write about something else?
Are there other periods where apocalypse mania has ebbed as real world disasters grow? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beachcombing is looking into the Black Death after pressing ‘publish’ on this post.
On a lighter note here is a link to a full version of a Thief in the Night: very watchable and sincerely made end-times kitsch. Then there is this nasty, uncharitable but amusing-despite-itself scene from Six Feet Under: helium filled sex dolls and rapture warning.
28/1/12: The Count has strong views on 2012: I think it’s worth pointing out that everybody forgets one very important detail about this whole 2012 business. The Mayan Long Count is a repeating cycle of approximately 5126 years, therefore, assuming the Mayans to be absolutely correct about cosmology (which is debatable to say the least), whatever occurs on December 21st 2012 will be precisely as apocalyptic as the events of August 11th 3114 BC. If that date doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry – professional ancient historians will be scratching their heads too. Though almost all of them will agree that the world didn’t end on that particular day. I should add that, if I remember the details correctly (it’s quite hard to exactly recall things which make no sense whatsoever on any level at all), what allegedly happened on that date, as it did on several previous occasions, was that the Sun was eaten by giant winged space jaguars (the animal, not the classic car, unfortunately), but was almost immediately replaced by another one of a different colour. So that was alright then. I think we can all agree that this isn’t going to happen – though if it did? WOW!!! However, I won’t be stocking up on the Batspray Flying Space Jaguar Repellant any time soon. What I think should be done instead is for people everywhere to realize that this is a fantastic excuse for a really spectacular party! 21/11/12 happens to fall on a Friday, so an End Of The World Party that becomes at the stroke of midnight a Not The End Of The World After All Party could get pretty wild. Go on, you know you want to! And while you’re waiting, you might like to have a look at this very splendid website which does exactly what it says on the tin and lists all known Ends Of The World in a convenient format, including rather a lot that have already occurred: I admit to experiencing the merest tingle of apprehension concerning the fact that apparently this is the one thing about which the Mayans and Mother Shipton are in total agreement. However, Thomas the Rhymer’s Doomsday prophecy is both very precise about the conditions and completely unhelpful about the date, but given our current understanding of plate tectonics, and the long-term lethargy of Scottish geology, I would estimate that his condition of certain huge Scottish boulders moving a mile or so unassisted will not be fulfilled for tens of millions of years. So no immediate cause for concern there. Unfortunately, no excuse for a party either, so we’re probably better off falling back on the Mayans, if only for that. So: we have less than a year to plan the Ultimate Party. Or at any rate, the Ultimate Party for the next 5126 years. As the late great Randolph Scott said (and also James Garner in a slightly different context), there are some things a man can’t ride around. And as Prince said (more or less): “We’re gonna party like it’s 2012.” So what if it doesn’t scan? That never stopped William McGonagall. And anyway, who cares? It’s a PARTY!’ No arguing with this. Thanks Count!