So as it turns out, Michael Stipe had it more right than the Mayan calendar. Though rumors have been spreading about the prophesy of apocalypse due for release on December, 21st 2012, it looks pretty good that if it’s the end of the world as we know it, we’ll all feel fine. Roland Emrick and astrobiology be damned.
The Maya thrived for thousands of years in Central America, peaking from about 900 to 200 A.D. Their calendar spanned 5,126 years, commencing in the year 3114 B.C. Take 3,114 from 5,126 and you get 2,012, how exciting. Except for the fact that ever single reputable Mayan scholar alive says the prophesy of destruction is a bunch bunk. There’s no evidence anywhere than any of them claimed terrible things were going to happen with three and half Christmas shopping days left. Phew, for Best Buy et al.
But it was, for a few minutes, a healthy mental exercise to imagine what the end of the world would be like. Forget fire and brimstone nuclear apocalypse. That’s too cliché and might very well happen before the end of the year at the rate Iran and Israel and Pakistan and all the other Stans (Higgins?) are escalating tensions.
Global Financial collapse would do the trick too. Or a solar flare bursting from the sun and hitting Earth eight seconds later, incinerating everything in “the cloud” along with cellular technology, GPS systems, military communications, hospital automations and everything else we cluelessly assume will never fail. That would feel like the end of the world as we know it.
Technology is the new religion, and we’ve been all too willing to sacrifice everything we can in favor of pushing it forward. But like all fulcrums that move the earth, it has its deleterious effects.
Newton’s Third Law of motion says that the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. How can this be applied to something like technology? What is the opposite and colinear reaction of the printing press (the beginning of the death of trees), the combustion engine (greenhouse emissions), synthetics (cancer from plastic everything), deep ocean mining (earth quakes) and bifurcating the atom (obliteration)?
Technology is unfolding at a mind-bending pace and it all seems to make life more and more convenient, but convenience has it’s obverse effects too. It’s technology allows New York city to stock and run it’s some odd five hundred plus sushi restaurants with a full menu selection ready to go every time you have a craving for it.
But the sonar trackers commercial fisherman are utilizing to snatch their prey with more ease than ever before is also responsible for wiping out entire breeds of fish with alarming efficiency. In short, technology is spoiled the shit out of us with seriously deleterious effects. And we’re oblivious to it all because we’ve inherited the obsessive trait that there’s something newer, faster, better out there, right around the corner.
But isn’t the opposite true? Think about how much better sushi would taste if it were less available. If we couldn’t find it at the check line of every CVS. It we were deprived of it once and a while. Think about how many other aspects of our spoon-fed lives that would be enhanced with a modicum of difficulty, or better yet, scarcity. A little technological and cultural apocalypse might do the trick.
It’s not all bad, clearly. With technology has come transparency. The revolution has been uploaded, literally. We’re now living in an age where dictators are brought down by cellphone toting fruit vendors. Where comedians send up politicians through monologues that travel through cable wires and satellite feeds, and single-handedly crush their approval ratings. Big Brother may be watching us, but we’re watching his ass back. And that’s a serious improvement.
So what does in all add up to? What can we expect for the new year? A presidential election that is so oversaturating we can’t wait to vote just to get it over with. More middle-east turmoil and European financial chaos. And worst of all, several high profile, reality show based celebrity break-ups.
It brings us right back to key part of REM’s 1987 hit. It’s not that it’s the end of the world that we’re destined to see. It’s the end of the world as we know it.
We’re well on our way already, aren’t we? Aren’t the 1980’s looking like more and more unrecognizable? A time when you needed a quarter to make a phone call. When you had to physically deposit a check in a bank, when New York barely knew what sushi was? That is not our world any more, and even with the pending predictions of global melt-down et al, I gotta say, my sense is that we’ll all survive. We might even feel fine while it’s happening.