Is the end of the world nigh?
Did the Mayans have it right when their calendar stopped in December 2012 or had they just had enough of writing calendars and figured five millennia worth ought to be enough for the time being?
To be honest, most of us mock the doomsayers and those that predict the end of the world. I do. I love a laugh and the conspiracy theorists and doomsayers are a pretty worthy bunch to laugh at in my book. I thoroughly enjoy all the trouble they go through, presenting this fact and that only to be told the simplest of explanations that proves that their whole theory, their life’s work, is a huge mistake as they whimper “I never thought of that!”.
In all seriousness though, could any of this doom and gloom actually be feasible let alone probable? What if we change the statement a little and consider the end of mankind. In fact, let’s narrow it down further and suggest the end of our current civilisation.
Before the mocking begins and you think that my drugs have finally gotten to me (in fact they had gotten to me years ago!) let’s consider the facts. First off, what is civilisation?
A literal explanation is ‘to reclaim from barbarism’, to have a culture with arts and refinements. To live beyond a primitive and savage state, to have cities and populated centres and to be sophisticated and well spoken. Well, already the last part excludes most of my friends and family already! But what do we consider civilisation? I believe for the majority of the younger generation it would focus on the technical and scientific. Perhaps for the older generation it could be as simple as being able to buy food to put on the table. Obviously I am making assumptions here, but think, for a moment, what you consider civilisation to mean.
When you think about it, my generation has been lucky. We have had no major wars, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds (although in some cases it has taken a step backward, an example being space travel/exploration. It’s been a long time since man walked anywhere outside of Earths gravitational field and now the Space Shuttle has been retired), we can eat almost any food we want and we have had secure employment and the ability to afford holidays abroad, cars and other luxuries. Yes, I think my generation has had it pretty easy. Civilisation has been good to us.
Pause now, for a second, and think why do we believe ourselves to be civilised? For us (the server for this site is in the USA and most of my readers are English speakers) our civilisation is the western version of what we believe it to be. When we look abroad we consider some countries uncivilised. Why, when or how did we decide that we were in any position to think this? Is it because they live in mud huts and don’t have the internet? Is it because their human rights policy is not how we believe it should be? There are a myriad of reasons why we consider some countries uncivilised and we even gave it a name. Second and Third world countries. We in the west obviously assume the mantle of a ‘First’ world country, where our laws are just, our leaders are incorruptible and our businesses are the best they can be. Oh really?
Things have a habit of changing and since 2008 our ‘western civilisation’ has been kicked around a bit. Corrupt officials, corrupt banking mechanisms, laws that are antiquated and no longer extant, I could go on for pages but I think I have made my point. Our economies which have given a lot of us ‘the good life’ are in tatters. Unemployment is soaring higher than ever before. Our economies are in a worse state than that of the ‘Great Depression’ in the early 20th Century.
On the flip side, China, India, Brazil and other countries which we considered less civilised have flourished and continue to do so. No longer does the west have exclusive rights to call themselves civilised. Just because their cultures are different from ours doesn’t make them less civilised in their eyes.
How about some icing on our cake?
In a few days there will be the Presidential election in the United States. I don’t admit to being an expert on the politics over there but you would have to be pretty ignorant if you don’t know about their view on civilisation. In an ironic twist to history where the Pilgrim Fathers (what happened to the mothers?) left England and Holland in order to be rid of the religious nonsense that was going on in the 18th Century, America has a large number of Christian fundamentalists. There have been recorded cases of extremism in America and the growth of the fundamentalists has been a concern to other countries, especially if the United States voted in a President who was party to these groups. Although known as religious conservatives, they are not exclusively Republicans but the majority tend to back Republican candidates and, unlike those who have a more secular approach, tend to have a high voter turnout, giving the Republican candidate an advantage.
I’m not suggesting that the current Republican Candidate is a fundamentalist but for the sake of argument, lets assume that if the Republican candidate becomes President and post election it is ascertained that he favours the religious conservative’s positions, there could be hell to pay!
Whilst we are on the subject of western democracies, let’s not forget Europe and the extremist incidents of the past year. We have had a right wing fanatic kill dozens in Norway and a militant Islamist killing people in France. Europe is seeing the increased support for political parties that make Atilla the Hun seem moderate. Extremist is growing in Europe and our democratic societies can’t do a thing about it.
Now, on the other side of the coin, we have an increase of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and especially Saudi Arabia. Do you see where I am going here?
Israel wants to bomb Iran before they become a nuclear power. Israel is a nuclear power and so is Pakistan. America supports Israel, bombs drop over Iran, Pakistan and other Islamic fundamentalist states get upset and support Iran….. it doesn’t bear thinking about. That would be the end of the world as we know it.
All of this is more than speculation, it’s akin to fantasy. At the moment.
We all know that there is increased tension in the world. Disputes between the US and China, India and Pakistan, Pakistan and Pakistan!! There are religious tensions all over the world. There is also the possibility that the civil war in Syria could spread to neighbouring countries. Basically, the various different civilisations in the world are on the edge of a precipice and it’s a long way down to the bottom.
Politics and religion aside, let’s have a brief look at the weather. The UK has suffered one of the wettest years in history, the US one of the driest. New York has just been hit by hurricane Sandy and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. This is significant on two fronts; one, the fact that a hurricane, albeit a small one, has reaped mayhem and destruction along the east coast of America and is still travelling north toward Canada (not that we mind the frogs in Quebec…. no, just kidding) and secondly, America can ill afford the billions in damages.
Climate change is a significant problem that a lot of people tend to ignore but the effects are being seen now. I don’t completely agree that it is mankind’s fault, the Earth has a habit of going through extremes and we are approaching or are at the early stages of one of those extremes. With the weather being as unpredictable and unimaginable as it is, who knows what the next couple of months could bring?
As usual I have taken the extreme possibilities (does that make me an extremist?) and the worse case scenarios. I doubt that the major powers in the world are building massive Arks or the International Space station is secretly a refuge for the world’s leaders and academics. I do think that the Mayans got bored of writing calendars for over five thousand years into the future, the future where their civilisation no longer exists. Ironically they were the cause of their own demise, according to new discoveries. I guess we can’t blame the Spanish for that one!
Complacency is our own worst enemy. If we don’t look for the facts and accept what is happening with a shrug and the thought that it doesn’t affect us then whatever happens will be the result of ignorance. We’re not ignorant and I don’t believe that we are (at the moment) in any danger of losing our civilisations. But, change happens, sometimes so fast we don’t realise it. The end of the world may not be nigh but things are going to change and the best advice I can offer is don’t become complacent. Peace never lasts. At the end of the day, no matter how civilised we may think we are, at the most basic level we are worse than the ‘uncivilised’ animals that share the planet with us.
Oh, and have a nice day!