Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is the End of the World?

By Ernesto Alvarado

"The end of the world is that it stays the same."

Ever wonder why some people are so convinced that the end of the world is near?

If it isn't the rapture finally taking us all in one big glorious fireball, it's a comet hurling itself through space that, we are told, will eventually wipe us all out ala dinosaurs. In 2000, the Y2K bug had the entire world investing in bomb shelters, praying to whoever would listen or enjoying Mr. Jack Daniel's company so they would at least bring in the stone age with a hangover.

The Mayans are now taking their turn as the soothsayers that have predicted our demise. Or maybe we are just reading the calendar wrong...either way, people are spooked. I would in no part be surprised that this is partially due to the HOURS of History Channel programming dedicated to how Earth is on its last legs according to the Mayan prophecy. Yet, I am not afraid.

When the Y2K bug was the purported downfall of man, I could only ask myself what is the end of the world?

I asked my dad....he replied, "It's when the world ends because there is no more food and people starve. It's when there are wars that don't stop and everyone starts killing everyone. Economic chaos and people start going crazy and a bunch of other really bad things happen...but that won't be for a while so go back to bed." I wasn't too afraid.

I stayed up waiting for the apocalypse that never came. As the end of the world warnings came again from random priests of random religions, I again began to ask myself what the end of the world was.

My professor replied, "It's when there is fire in the sky. Water dries up and storms start destroying places all over the Earth. Governments won't be able to help the people and revolutions will become commonplace." Nothing to be afraid about.

Once again, the Earth was spared from prophesied doom and the world went back to normal. The Mayan calendar began to gain momentum and supporters and critics of the apocalyptic warnings began to point to the evidence of their position. Arguments of the interpretations of the ancient text and the timetable that this fallen civilization gave humanity were points of contention among those who believed that we would all finally meet our maker.

What is the end of the world?

In a famine plagued nation, the end of the world would be the last gasp of air ingested as a replacement of nourishment that never was able to reach the poor soul. The increasing droughts that wipe out food for millions that live with an insatiable hunger for the most basic resources. The Horn of Africa drought in 2011 is the most recent example of these famines. Is that not the end of the world for those who die of hunger?

At this moment, there are nearly 25 ongoing wars throughout the world. This is excluding the conflicts that don't meet the required 1,000 deaths that are needed to be classified as an escalated conflict by the UNDP. Is the end of the world for a person in these war zones when a stray bullet hits them from the barrel of a soldier fighting for a state entity's ideological differences with another? Can religion really save us when it has taken so many to the end of their world? The fire from the sky no longer comes from the religious texts that speak of a rapture; it now comes in the form of aerial attacks on military targets that take so many innocent lives with them. The four horsemen are no longer the feared providers of destruction on Earth; they have been replaced by terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and organized crime syndicates that no longer fear an anachronistic legal framework that they easily avoid in bringing the end to so many's worlds.

Earth's inhabitants have led to a climate change that is increasingly becoming more apparent. The most recent example being the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy that ravaged much of the US coast but also the Caribbean nations located along its path of destruction. The rising sea levels now threaten small island nations and coastal cities throughout the world while temperatures continue to rise and storms become stronger and more dangerous. We don't need to worry about a meteor ending our world, we are doing a perfectly good job ourselves.

Governments are collapsing and people are taking to the streets to fight for their freedom. As the power struggles become increasingly violent and the rhetoric more convoluted, it becomes harder to determine who are the terrorist and who are the freedom fighters. The end of some political worlds, many that have been in power for decades, have ended. Other, like North Korea and Syria, continue to truly be examples of the failures of the ideologically-based international community. The global powers remain idly by as thousands continue to be (allegedly) tortured, slaughtered, and oppressed by these dictators. Thousands continue to die as the world that these countries all vow to protect continues to be tied up by political and diplomatic bureaucracy. Are they not witnessing the end of the world for so many?

What is the end of the world if it isn't something like the feeling one gets when they hear of an elementary school shooting? A Mayan calendar and the end of the world predictions mean nothing when a young soul is taken from his parents. Their world is over. The world as one knows it changes forever. How can you be afraid of a hypothetical doomsday when the modern world seems to display those traits everyday?

The Mayan Calendar marks December 21st 2012 as the end of the "Long Cycle" of the 13th Baktun. At this point there is a debate as to whether this means that the end of the world occurs or merely a new transition into a different world.

I am not concerned that the world may end on December 21st...I am worried that it will stay the same.

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