It’s the end of the world as we know it? Yeah right, been through that… plenty of times.
People seem to have a strange fascination with doomsday scenarios. Even before the Cold War made it a chilling reality, self-appointed prophets were warning the masses to repent, for the end of times was nigh and for some reason this bum off the street was blessed with a vision of it. It’s always more interesting when the apocalyptic scenario has a drop dead date, because then you can prepare for it, right? I mean, if the rapture happened tomorrow, would you have just wasted two hours cleaning out gutters that might never see the rain again anyway? That would suck…
So today, let’s take a look at some of my favorite doomsday predictions that have occurred in my relatively brief lifetime….
The Mayan Apocalypse:
Day of Reckoning: December 21, 2012
According to people with nothing better to do with their time that play with the inner workings of a calendar nobody has used for over a millennium, the method of marking time that was used by the Mayan civilization in Central America has a definite ending point, and that end comes this Friday. Oh my… you know, my squirrel calendar I have hanging up on the wall comes to an end on December 31st. If the Mayans don’t get us, the squirrels certainly will, won’t they???
If you can believe the ever-reliable Wikipedia, this is all a bunch of bunk. While it’s true that one of the ancient calendars used by the Mayans will in fact the doing a major odometer turnover in a few days, the fact is it’s just that. To use that analogy, if your car has a 5 digit odometer, it’s not going to quit running when you hit 100,000 miles… it’ll just need a lot more repairs to keep it on the road. And even that doesn’t really sum up what will be occuring with the Mayan “long count” calendar on Friday, because the Mayans were actually good up through well over ONE BILLION YEARS with the divisions they named in their calendar. The Chicago Cubs will likely win a World Series before the Mayan elders would run out of space on their calendar, theoretically speaking of course.
Here’s what’s cool though…. with Day One (0.0.0.0.1) being August 11, 3114 BC, the rollover that will occur on December 21 will look like this:
So I guess some knucklehead out there thought the Mayans (who used a base-20 numerical system) would just quit counting after 12 “B’ak’tun”, which is the “ten-thousands place” in this form of expressing the Mayan date. Nope, we’ll just revel in 394 years of awesomeness that is the 13th B’ak’tun!
Day of Reckoning: May 21, 2011
The funny thing about this infamous doomsday prediction was that I didn’t even hear about it until a couple days before the dreaded date when I saw it on a billboard sign. Well, that’s not really funny. What is funny is….
- The way Rev. Harold Camping claimed that the cataclysm would be caused by a massive earthquake that would begin at the International Date Line at 6 PM and sweep westward by time zone an hour at a time. To think that God has decided to recognize our arbitrary time zone divisions to allow us to conveniently wait until 6:00 local time to meet our maker. This would probably look real cool if you happened to live near a time zone border, so long as you were smart enough to stand in the EARLIER time zone, of course.
- How Rev. Camping tried to weasel his way out of the first prediction that didn’t occur by claiming he meant it was only a SPIRITUAL RAPTURE, and that the physcial end of the world would not occur exactly 5 months later on October 21, 2011. Hell, even Camping himself gave up on that prediction before it had a chance to not come to fruition.
- That despite the impending doom, Rev. Camping was still desperately seeking donations for his ministry. God bless his efforts to stick to business as usual even with impending doom lurking over his shoulder.
- This wasn’t even his first failed doomsday prediction! He tried the same stunt in September 1994! If this guy was in an endtimes math class, he would have flunked out and had to repeat the whole semester…
Day of Reckoning: January 1, 2000
Just like with the fascination over the Mayan calendar, any major turnover in our beloved Gregorian calendar is going to bring out the crackpots. After all, Prince warned us about “two thousand zero zero” way back in 1983, and that’s scary coming from a prophet in a purple pimp suit. But the doomsday wackos got a major assist from the media to turn this end of the millennium zero hour into a prediction so terrifying, normally rational people were actually seriously preparing for it! (Hi Dad!)
Is that January 1, 2000, or January 1, 1900? A computer programmed to only recognize two digit years would most likely default it to 1900 since that’s the way early computerized equipment was “taught” to read dates. While this glitch, which was began making the media rounds in the mid 90’s, was certainly a legitimate concern in as far as computers needing to correctly calculate dates, it really was really nothing more than an annoyance for anyone or any business who had outdated equipment… i.e. technology that wasn’t “Y2K compatible”.
This was too big of an opportunity for the media to do what it does best though, and that’s needlessly scare the living shit out of people. Over the course of several years, Y2K morphed from some pesky little bug that needed to be fixed to a digitized horseman that was going to wipe out everything that ran on electricity! Seriously, during sweeps month programming in 1999, I saw countless news stories about whether your household appliances would survive the changeover to 2000! I swear to God one of the reporters, in all seriousness, asked the “Y2K expert” if a common ordinary microwave would just up and cease to function at midnight on New Years Eve. Holy effing batshit!!!
Of course, the real ridiculous fear that was hammered into everyone’s brain was that the electrical grid and everything else we’ve come to depend on would just shut down at the stroke of midnight. Can anyone give me a logical explanation for why an incorrect date would matter to whatever technology is keeping the electricity flowing? Or the water running? Or the cable TV showing porn?
Sadly, unlike with most apocalyptic situations, the cynics were seemingly in the minority for this one…. so I often found myself beating my head against a wall trying to tell people that this was a load of horse manure. It all seems so silly now, 13 years removed from the hysteria, but I’ll bet more than a few people still have long forgotten about Y2K stashes around the house collecting dust and mold…
Mission For The Coming Days:
Day of Reckoning: October 28, 1992
There doesn’t seem to be much about this doomsday scenario out there on the internet. Heck, even Wikipedia doesn’t have a page on the group responsible for this failed doomsday date. But this was the first true “end of times” prophecy I remember getting a lot of attention. I guess nobody cares when the Koreans screw up…
The Big Quake:
Day of Reckoning: December 3, 1990
If you lived in the Midwest two decades ago, you probably remember a rather infamous prediction made by a certain Dr. Iben Browning. Using all of his expertise in the field of
seismology climatology, he boldly stated that there was an increased likelihood of a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault on or around the date of December 3, 1990. The media decided to report this as a newsworthy story. You can imagine what happened….
People everywhere near the fault line fell all over themselves to quickly gather up earthquake preparedness supplies (Not a bad thing if they hadn’t been later thrown out with the Y2K stashes), impromptu vacations were planned to be as far away from the dangerzone as possible, schools and business actually closed on that day (a Monday). I had an art appreciation class in high school that semester, and vividly recall the fear in my teacher’s face when she mentioned to us about a week or so prior to the Big Day that she couldn’t believe the school district hadn’t decided to cancel classes that day. And all because this guy….
… stated that there might be an earthquake that day.
And of course there wasn’t. And life went on…. well, except for Dr. Browning’s. He died the following July, and no doubt he still causes tremors near his New Mexico grave every time someone like me mocks what will end up being his best known legacy. Thanks for the laughs, Doc Browning!
And so it goes with wild predictions of doom and gloom. An innocent beginning, a wild and dramatic buildup to the anticlimax, and then there’s nothing to do but wait for the next yahoo to come along and tell you we’re all going to die…
Yeah, I think we’ll all live to see the next Saturday Squirrel!