This year, we’ve decided to throw an apocalypse, because an apocalypse is better than dying alone as we had originally planned.
Between the blue-eyed certainties of fringe-Christian radio, a world takeover by computers and the Mayan calendar’s end, the next few months could be humanity’s last hurrah. The universe will come at us like a blindfolded man swinging drunkenly at a piñata, and when he uncovers his eyes, blood and bodies will be everywhere.
As I sit here in a Colorado bar, I can already see symptoms of despair: young men and women holding hands unsupervised, hipsters paying drug cartel-prices for college education, eyeliner and illegal drugs…there may be no hope of changing our bleak situation.
Last month, the comb-over, the most dishonest haircut ever devised, took control of a millionaire and challenged the presidency. Justified self-loathing walks the food courts in skinny jeans, and the great beast of marketing roars a roar that can be heard from space.
A good number of folks believe this is all a good thing; that we are awaiting the fairytale culmination of our American story – That, at the end of an acceptable period of awkwardness, there will be a vast explosion of good feelings, like an hour in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion. These people do not understand that several other non-Christian apocalypses are waiting in the wings, and they might not involve promises of eternal real estate or marching saints.
We must at least consider the possibility that the end of Western history might be a footnote in some other society’s greater narrative. Maybe Central America is just an occasional vacation spot for the alien beings that introduced chocolate and human sacrifice. Maybe the Terminator is silently fighting it out with a tenacious Jesus for the chance to press our existence’s off button. We can’t be sure until the end that we have picked the right horse, and as you have no doubt noticed, there is more than one horse carrying a rider, running in the field at the end of the world.
Now let’s take a look at the four competitors who would gladly destroy us.
Harold Camping: Christian Apocalypse 2011
It is no accident that the plural for apocalypse – apocalypses – is not used much. If it’s done correctly, there should only be one. The 89-year-old radio pastor and sideburn enthusiast Harold Camping has nevertheless predicted the end of history twice – once in 1994 and most recently on May 21, 2011. These predictions were inaccurate, but he says God has decided to give the world a pass until October, claiming that May 21 was, according to Vanity Fair, an “invisible judgment day,” much like a day spent with a girlfriend’s parents, or a militant vegan. In October, we’ll really find out if the Almighty was just being polite when he invited us to his Christmas party.
2012: The End of the Mayan Calendar
According to some enthusiasts of Mayan culture, December 21, 2012 will mark the end of a 26,000-year cycle. The sun will align with the galactic axis of the Milky Way, causing the end of the world as we know it. Depending on whom you ask, the end could involve earthquakes, war and famine, or a global shift in consciousness: The earth may crack open, causing a giant bird to emerge that will bear us all to the galactic womb of the Mother Goddess, or Yanni’s house as the ancient Mayans called it. There is, however, some controversy about the math that researchers used to convert the Mayan prophecy into modern calendar years. So, if you’re planning on joining a group marriage at next year’s Burning Man Festival, you might make sure that at least one of you has health insurance.
Global Warming: A Continuing Threat to Civilization
I am unable to comment objectively on this apocalypse because my car’s air conditioner is broken.
Terminator: Rise of the Machines
According to the Terminator movie franchise, the fictional supercomputer Skynet became self-aware on April 19, 2011, forcing humanity into a war with sentient robots. This is by far the apocalypse with the best merchandising opportunities.
Though some of the ignorant and doomed populace might see this as harmless pop-trivia, artificial intelligence expert Raymond Kurzweil disagrees. In his book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil argues that due to the increasing rate of technological innovation, human-machine hybrids will become our new gods by the middle of this century, and each human’s personality will be downloaded into a global network for all eternity. As several Singularity researchers have remarked, the worst that could possibly happen would be the extinction of the human race.
Well, here’s to throwing one last party with no hangovers.