The Mayans called. They want their calendar back.
12/21/2012 will be so uneventful that it’ll make Y2K look like the Harmonic Convergence.
I wasn't going to even write about 2012. Really I wasn't, mainly because the topic has already been covered so well by some of my fellow wags and social commentators, such as the above-quoted Steven Sashen. Like most of them, I've known about the 2012 hysteria for many years, long before it actually became hysteria. For that matter, I was hip to it long before the Y2K panic became a panic. I first became cognizant of 2012 predictions way back when the world was still recovering from the utter letdown that was the Harmonic Convergence (the latter of which I mentioned in passing, along with one of the countless "ascensions" related to the number 11, in an old piece I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer).
I knew about 2012 by virtue of having friends, and later clients, who were into New-Agey stuff and were fascinated with the Mayan calendar and the usual hodgepodge of ancient prophecies. One of my clients, who later became a friend, did some channeling occasionally, and some of her Guides told her all sorts of stuff about massive catastrophic changes coming in 2012. One told her the s--t would actually start hitting the fan some time in 2009, and it would just begin escalating steadily for the next three years, culminating in the Big Whatever of 2012.
In the past couple of years, as it became apparent that 2012 was the new Y2K, I toyed with the idea of doing a blog post about it. Other topics captured my interest more, though, and I let it slide.
But now comes the new disaster flick, 2012, which opened in theaters across the United States today. (It's fitting, I suppose, that it would be on a Friday the 13th.) So far the movie critics have been less than kind, although reg'lar viewers have tended to cut the movie a little more slack. I'm pretty easy on movies myself, and will probably see 2012 at some point after it comes out on DVD; I've enjoyed several of director Roland Emmerich's other works, and I adore John Cusack, despite the fact that he may have some woo-ish leanings himself. During yesterday's interview on CBS' Early Show, Harry Smith asked John if he had been aware of the 2012 hoopla before he got involved in the movie. John said yeah, he'd been into that stuff for years. Here's a link to the video of that interview, which has become famous in its own right for the fact that the f-word just sort of popped out of John's mouth (at about 2:45 into the video).
In the past several months I've been seeing some more acerbic commentary about this whole 2012 thing. I don't know if any of it will make a dent in the growing hysteria, but I applaud the writers' efforts nonetheless. In October, Mark Stevenson published a piece on the MyWay site about how disgusted many people of Mayan descent are about the 2012 phenomenon. Astronomers are pretty irate as well.
At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" Web site, says people are scared.
"It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up."
Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.
A significant time period for the Mayas does end on the date, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years.
But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials such as one on the History Channel which mixes "predictions" from Nostradamus and the Mayas and asks: "Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?"
Although 2012 does have some archeological significance, which Stevenson explains in his article, it's just not gonna be the end of the world as we know it.
More recently, on the h+ Magazine site, Mark Dery wrote a scathing piece, 2012: Carnival of Bunkum. He rips into 2012 "expert" Daniel Pinchbeck (whose asininity has had my pal Chris Locke at the Mystic B blog tearing his own hair out for quite some time now). Dery writes:
But the worst of the 2012 bandwagon, epitomized by Pinchbeck’s lectures and writings, is the blithe cultural arrogance and staggering anthropological ignorance evident in the movement’s appropriation of Mayan beliefs and history. In a discussion hosted by Pinchbeck’s online magazine Reality Sandwich, the cultural theorist Erik Davis puts his finger on the minstrelsy implicit in the ventriloquization, by white, first-world New Agers, of the Maya. “[I]t seems to me that there is very little concrete sense of what ‘the Mayans’ (whoever that grand abstraction represents) thought about what would happen in the human world on 2012,” he writes. “To my mind it is kinda disrespectful to the Mayans to force them into our own narrative.”
Dery also talked to journalist Xeni Jardin, who does not claim to be an expert on or spokesperson for the Mayan people. However, her adoptive father is "of indigenous descent," and Xeni's work with his nonprofit organization in Guatemala to make things better for the poorest of the poor there has brought her in close contact with the Mayans. Here's what she had to say about Pinchbeck:
What makes me angriest about Pinchbeck’s bogus, profiteering bullsh-t isn’t so much him, but the fact that that many people are racist enough to believe any asshole white guy who declares himself an expert in Mayan culture. Did it ever occur to anyone to ask practicing Maya priests out in the villages? [...] It absolutely enrages me that while people I know in Guatemala, traditional priests, are struggling to figure out how to provide clean drinking water to their families, how to feed their communities, how to avoid being shot by the gangs and thieves that plague the roads more than ever---while they’re struggling to survive and keep their communities intact, assholes like Pinchbeck are making a buck off of white man’s parodies of their culture.
Of course, Native Americans have been hollering for years about the wholesale exploitation of their culture and religious traditions by New-Wage hustlers and their followers, the latest newsworthy example being James Arthur Ray's infamous Death Lodge. In fact, the Lakota tribes of North and South Dakota have just filed a lawsuit against James Ray, the owners of the Angel Valley Resort, the state of Arizona and the United States. Here is a PDF of the pleading. (And years before Sweatgate there were other disasters, not only with sweat lodges but with large-scale New-Wagey events such as the increasingly ludicrous Burning Man.)
But back to 2012. Despite the serious efforts of people such as Mark Dery and Mark Stevenson, people are going to believe what they want to believe. Almost certainly the silliness will continue unabated, and perhaps the best way to fight it is with yet more silliness. I kind of like Steven Sashen's approach. He has a mighty prophecy of what will occur on December 22, 2012, which is the day after the world is supposed to end.
...when the “planetary alignment” occurs, without the warned-about mayhem, here’s how the 12-ers will spin it:
“YOU DID IT, HUMANITY! You made the shift in consciousness that we needed to avert disaster and have ushered in a new era in global connection and enlightenment.”
One of his readers responded:
What’s amusing to me is that there’s pretty solid proof that the Mayan Calendar was created several hundred years after year zero. i.e., the makers extrapolated back to make things fit the way they wanted to. So year zero is completely arbitrary, just like year zero in CE calendars is arbitrary (seeing as how Jesus was probably born in 4 BC).
Here's my prophecy about 2012: The one thing the movie about it will accomplish, besides making big bucks at the box office, will be to finally bring the conversation even more into the mainstream. It will give the talking heads and the blogging hands something to talk about and blog about, and it will give the worrying public something else to worry about for a while, until the next trendy worry du jour comes along. End-timers of the New-Wage sort will come forward with still more products to help humanity through this "transition." (I wouldn't be surprised if Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, for example, came out with his own exploitation project – perhaps a moviemercial about "Hypnotic Marketing Secrets of the Mystical Maya." After all, he went to Peru last summer and got photographed looking deeply wise in Machu Picchu. That has to be good for at least one infoproduct. It would be just the thing to add to his world series of magickal offerings, such as the Russian Wish Dolly and the Polish Money Attractor.) Meanwhile, end-timers of the Christian fundamentalist kind will righteously assert that Jeezus H. Christ Himself said we don't know the hour or the day the world will end, but that in any event we shouldn't be listening to those pagan Mayans.
And the Whirled will just keep right on spinning.