World without end: Doomsday on Dec. 21 is really Gullible Day
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No one knows what will happen on Dec. 21, 2012, but it is a safe bet that the world won't end. It is possible that a volcano might erupt somewhere in the world that afternoon. A large Western economy could collapse by evening, but the sun will come up on Dec. 22 to shine on a world that is still intact.
For years, New Age hucksters and other assorted con artists have cashed in on the irrational fears of a tiny fraction of the public that believes a planetary apocalypse will occur on Dec. 21. Fears about what the ancient Mayan calendar allegedly predicts as it reaches the end of its 5,125 year cycle has triggered wide-spread anxiety across the globe.
The New York Times published a story about the Russian government's attempts to deal with the growing panic that has already led to a "collective mass psychosis" at a women's prison. Some Russian cities are experiencing a run on supermarket goods as terrified citizens stock up on kerosene, sugar and candles.
In France, those who believe the Bugarach mountain will be one of the few places on Earth spared destruction on Dec. 21 are being prevented from migrating there by skeptical French authorities.
Ironically, the Mayan calendar doesn't predict any of the things ascribed to it according to scholars who study ancient cultures. Authors with little expertise in the ancient Mayan civilization have been getting rich lying about it.
In this country, there has never been a shortage of gullible citizens willing to bet everything that the end of the world will occur on a specific day prophesied by some religious leader or sect. NASA has received thousands of inquiries about whether a rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth. The fact that NASA scientists have to post videos at USA.gov debunking the Mayan calendar rumors speaks volumes about our educational system.
Now, if only we could get people discussing real catastrophes like global climate change, but Americans are too sophisticated to believe "nonsense" like that.
First Published December 5, 2012 12:00 am