« The end of the world is approaching…. ». A sentence we’ve been hearing throughout our whole existence, and now that 2012 is nearby it won’t stop hurting my ears, even if most of the times is a pathetic joke. Because there is a beginning & an end according to the manicheist mind.
Go & have a quick look at this page about all the previously announced but failed predictions regarding the end of the world, you’ll find a wild wide range of scenarios, some more original than others, some scary, and most of them with a high degree of sophistication, I mean…. ridiculousness.
Whether you open the Bible, the Coran or the Talmud, you can find predictions about the end of times. The Bible goes on about an Antichrist who would come as a sign of the end and would act as the world tyrant before losing his battle against the Messiah and burning forever in the hellfire. The Coran predicts signs throughout the ages, which would end up being more evident & harsh towards the end and finally reach the Last Judgement. In Judaism, people of Israel as well as the rest of humankind would see the Messiah arriving and (re)creating his kingdom. Generally, the « bad one against God » is present in all three points of view as well as our humankind judgment. Common points for common histories but how should we interpret them? Few things are more complicated than religious texts (not even the string theory), for various reasons that go from the geographical location where the text was written, to the era or the constant semantic & linguistic false friends, metaphors…
Books written in immemorial times that keep generating revenues to their new publishers… nowadays adapted to meet the mainstream audience in most cases. Although in their origins when the book itself was considered as “contemporary”, it was written in a language that completely disappeared per se, and texts got translated not only once or twice, but at least hundreds of times. Some translators will tell you that « Translation is betrayal ». Imagine those texts in the origin and the new versions hundreds of translations after; then take into account each time a few details change. Now, do they still mean what they were intended for?
(I love these videos)
Furthermore, the form of the text in itself is a serious obstacle for its understanding. The signs of the end of the world as well as the prophets visions are often expressed with metaphors and many other other figures of speech that make them very hazy. And as humanity and nations evolve there are quite a few mismatches between those old habits, local customs and places described in these books and our reality. There are so many details about our geo-political & social structure that have changed…. hard to express them anyhow in these books.
We obviously shouldn’t forget the king of prophecies…. our friend Nostradamus and his always referential texts. Written in a good mix of old French, Latin, Greek and Provence dialect (southern France) & filled with old-fashioned figures of speech, they appear to be particularly abstract and therefore, particularly open to any kind of interpretation. The authenticity of Nostradamus’ publications are disputed as well : if the 1557 version seems to be the authentic one, the 1558 publication leaves too many unanswered questions. The very famous prophecy about the 9/11 attacks proved to be false… it was a Canadian student from Brock University who wrote it as part of an essay to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy could be crafted through the use of abstract imagination.
However, despite all those fake predictions, there is one particular date which seems to attract all pessimistic ideas (everything is about pessimism in the end). My favorite day…. December 21st 2012, you know… when the Maya Calendar stops. Or more precisely, it doesn’t really stop there, it changes completely : mass destruction, social chaos etc, before the world opens up on the 5th Sun’s World. Lots of documents mention how accurate Maya predictions were when for instance, they managed to predict the arrival of westerners and all the disasters they brought with them. But this prediction just like most religious ones is something we wouldn’t really call precise. And this is the point when the Internet comes into my reflexion…
Thanks to our democratizing www there is a glut of all types of prophecies & predictions about the end of the world. The convenience of having a precise date led to a bunch of different stories based on the Maya prophecy. You may well find also monotheist religions and many civilizations’ end of world prophecies if you like… To the point of sometimes being mixed up in the most hilarious, surrealistic and unthinkable ways. The Internet is certainly helping to spread the word and accelerates the twisting process that translators have carried out for several centuries.
May my last point be about something I would find just as interesting as those prophecies…. the conspiracy theories, which are just as old as Gaia and the fairy tales. Used mainly as a political weapon, they may consist of a very easy process which involves accusing a minority of manipulations in order to dominate.
Some famous examples of those proto conspiracy theories are (that come up to my mind right now) for ex: the French Revolution and the idea of being started by philosophers in order to eradicate Christianity in France first and then in the rest of Europe; or the Protocols of Elders of Zion (Protocole des Sages de Sion) a fake document written to justify pogroms against the Jewish population in imperial Russia and later re-used by Adolph Hitler for the Nazi propaganda. Those protocols described a world conspiracy instigated by the Jewish community to control the world.
Throughout the 20th century, conspiracy theories have obviously increased and changed: the assassination of JFK, 9/11… or the more common & always trendy theories about Zionists, Free Masons, secret clubs and other elites ready to do everything to control the world. It involves more of mystical fantasies such as Satanism, dark arts… With the proliferation of information and the easiness of diffusion/ re-appropriation of ideas and opinions, conspiracy theory is now a real social phenomenon, and as Facebook spreads they also becoming more and more present, not only in mass medias but in our minds.
On the other hand the End of the World could actually be obviated by those same partisans of conspiracy theories : small groups hidden but active who don’t want to lead the world to its end but control it and establish a new order. A concept reinforced by the use of those lovely sci-fi books that go from the Bible to the Qur’an. In the end finding plans for the future, world domination or world destruction is pretty much up to you and your own taste… just like shoes, a different pair for each day of the week.
Whether the end comes in 2012 or not, we can at least state that old schemes of fears & fantasies… are not disappearing but adapting themselves to the new “connected era”. Internet allows to share crazy scenarios and ideas about the future, constantly updating our collective unconscious, imagination and this very human ability to tell oneself stories, and believe in anything. « As there is a beginning, there is an end » as we like to think, and the idea of being aware of our own fall seems to work as a psychological eraser…