by Luis Prada
For years you’ve been hearing about how the Maya long ago predicted the end of the world, and how they even narrowed it down to a date so specific it they had to have used some perfect combination of math and wizardry to set it: December 21st, 2012, a.k.a., like, soon. The level of hype surrounding this date has been tremendous, probably because fear-mongering is what the History Channel is best at nowadays, and they love themselves some end-of-the-world documentaries. Yet, for all the hype, only 2% of Americans think the world will end on December 21st.
To put that into perspective, 21% of Americans believe in witchcraft, and there’s a good chance there’s some crossover between the two stats. So more people in America believe the Wicked Witch of the West can be real than believe the Maya knew when we would all die. That means a vast majority of Americans haven’t bought into the hype, which is just beautiful. If we shifted this whole thing back 50 years, that number would probably be larger. But we’ve become smarter and wiser and our eye for BS has become sharper. But there’s still the matter of that final 2%. That’s who this article is for.
Conspiracy theorists are prone to thinking anything the government says is BS and they’re covering something up. So they probably won’t be swayed by the U.S. government coming out and saying that the whole thing is just some made up garbage. “Nixon covered up some stuff. And, hey, you know, like, Roswell. The government has a long track record of hiding the truth!” But what usually doesn’t happen is the government rattling off a long list of facts that take down an entire theory – facts that every scientist can review and say “Yup. That about covers it.”
Even though it might be a futile exercise, let’s try to sway that final 2% of 2012 believers.
If you’re new to the whole Maya thing, here’s where it all stems from: if the Maya civilization were around today, they would go apesh*t over Target’s one-dollar calendar section. Every room in their homes would be adorned with black-and-white pictures of kitties and beautiful vistas, all atop the days of the year. They loved calendars. So much so that they pretty much had a calendar for everything. Had they survived a bit longer, they would have developed calendars that kept track of their bowel movements and the menstrual cycles of female Maya long before anyone else thought to hold a timer to someone’s private parts.
There were around 15 to 20 Mayan calendars, and each kept track of something. One was used for crops, another was for the cycles of the sun, and the big one at the center of all the 2012 apocalypse stuff was the Long Count, which calculated the number of days since Creation, and was their version of our Gregorian calendar. In other words, it was a calendar lacking any semblance of cute kitties and puppies or great moments from Dilbert comic strips.
The number 13 is important in the Long Count calendar, as it marks the end of the calendar, and the number 1 marks the start, like how December is 12 and January is 1 when we write out dates. The final day on the Long Count is 18.104.22.168.19, which is December 20th, 2012. When we roll into the 21st, the Long Count’s date switches to 22.214.171.124.0, thus completing what the Maya called the “Grand Cycle,” which is just like saying “Happy New Year!” but in exceptionally epic fashion. According to the Maya, 126.96.36.199.19 marks the end of the “Third World” and 188.8.131.52.0. is the start of the “Forth World.” That last little bit of information is where all the crazy theories stem from – simply because the calendar of a dead civilization ended on a certain day, just as it had before with no ill-apocalyptic affect, it somehow means we’re all going to die.
And where did the apocalypse part come from? From an anthropologist named Michael Coe in his 1966 book The Maya. In the book Coe basically passes off a bit of hearsay as what it was, stating, “There is a suggestion…that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the thirteenth.”
There is a suggestion.
All of this 2012, end-of-the-world crap is based off of what amounts to the scholarly equivalent of your buddy recommending a place to get a good sandwich.
Since then, the Mayan 2012 stuff has spun wildly out of control. I’ll leave it to a smarter man with a much deeper grasp on science to explain why all of the ancillary 2012 theories and scenarios are full of sh*t, and that man is MCD’s very own Luke McKinney. So let’s just focus on the core here by sticking with the Maya, who themselves believe the whole thing is a joke.
Remember how I mentioned that the Maya are a dead civilization? Well, that isn’t exactly true. There are plenty of their descendants alive today, and they all agree on one thing – the world will not end on December 21st, 2012. Apolinario Chile Pixtun is a modern day Maya elder, and he’s tired of all this 2012 sh*t, just like you probably are. He’s tired of it because December 21st means nothing to the world. In fact, the best way to interpret the change over from 184.108.40.206.19. to 220.127.116.11.0 is by thinking of it not only in terms of a new year, but in the roll over from 1999 to 2000. It’s not just a celebration over a number being ticked up to a slightly larger number; it’s the celebration of the coming of a whole new set of numbers that we’ll be using for a long time before they change again. In the future, after we lose all memory of 2012, alien archeologists will say “The American humans thought the world would end on Dec 31st, 2099. That’s as high as their Windows 7 programs went!”
So, in a sense, the whole Mayan thing is really 2012’s version of Y2K – it’s a whole lot of hype and doomsday-ing for what will ultimately amount to a pretty decent Friday night if you attend a rocking (and ironic) End of the World party; not much else after that.
When the 21st comes around, do yourself a favor and don’t give a damn. It’s what the Maya would have wanted.
Luis faced apocalypse-grade stupidity this week in The Dumbest Yahoo! Answers (Part VI) and gave you something to really worry about in 5 Creepy Secret Squatters Who Lived Where They Weren’t Supposed to.