Apocalypse postponed

Well if you’re reading this then them Mayan fellas must have miscalculated.

End of the world predictions are, of course, as old as human communities.

However, we in the age of science should know better, but many of us don’t.

This new age fascination with the “wisdom of ancient cultures” has baffled me for some time.

If they were that wise how come did they collapse?

Once there was astrology now there is astronomy, where there was alchemy now we have chemistry.

When the Mesoamerican culture was at its zenith there was no distinction between religion and science.

It was the Mayan holy men who studied the stars and their charts, in fairness, were remarkably accurate.

They were the only Mesoamerican culture to develop a writing system (logo syllabic), but they had not invented the wheel or domesticated anything bigger than a turkey by the time that the Spanish arrived.

Despite only having stone cutting tools and no dray animals they built huge cities in the jungles of Central America.

The Mayans did not have steel, gunpowder or horses.

When the Spanish turned up and got stuck in it was a clash of obsidian tipped spears against the finest Toledo swords.

Militarily the Mayan lads were banjaxed.

If they knew that the men from Spain were on the way they might have made some preparations.

I’m really surprised that they didn’t see that in the stars…

The demise of this impressive civilisation has engaged people in these islands since the work of Alfred P. Maudslay.

The British in their imperial age were rather fascinated in empires that had collapsed as they didn’t want that to happen to them.

Just as the Mayan priests might have charted the sun did indeed set on the British Empire and for all of the usual reasons that empires collapse, hubris, over-expansion and debt.

In Mel Gibson’s allegorical examination of the Mayan collapse Apocalypto (2006) he starts with a quote from the philosopher Will Durant: “a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within”.

Durant was referring to the fall of Rome, but his analysis holds good for the cause of death of most civilisations.

Gibson himself was clearly thinking of the US imperium, his film being launched at the nadir of the Iraq war.

If Mel wants to make another movie about an empire collapsing under debt and delusions of grandeur then I think have an idea for him.

For any human community to be sustainable people don’t need to be clairvoyant just self-aware.

I am amazed that  across the world-including  a few deranged folks in China-some believe that a culture that couldn’t see the Spanish turning  up on their doorstep and destroying them as a civilisation could predict the end of life on the planet in the 21st century.

Of course the Mayans made no such claim.

Today is end of the 13th Baktun, but as you’re reading this you will note, dear reader, that it isn’t the end of the planet.

The misreading of the Tortuguero monument in southern Mexico was the genesis of this particular end of days angst fest.

Bolon Yokte, allegedly the Mayan god of the underworld, was meant to do something significant today, but the stone carving was incomplete when it was discovered as some fekker seems to have chipped a bit of it off.

So we don’t know what precisely was being foretold.

It could have been a full on Armageddon or just a slow lingering death.

The identity of the vandals is not known.

Maybe it was that Hernán Cortés and his casuals or just Chelsea fans pretending to be Conquistadors.

However, not all predictions of doom in 2012 were off the mark.

For some closer to home it WAS a Mayan year.

Something very significant DID happen.

Indeed the followers of a particular cult will never be the same again.

Even if they can’t bring themselves to admit it.

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