Mayan Apocalypse Thinking

Tristan Sturm’s article “Anxious apocalypticism, meaningful millennialism”, rabble.ca, 21 December 2012 (http://rabble.ca/news/2012/12/anxious-apocalypticism-meaningful-millennialism) explored the concept of and criticized humanities “End of Times” thinking. Sturm is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at York University in Toronto, Canada. He cleverly chose to publish his article on the famous date of “December 21, 2012”, the date believed by many before the time, to be the end of times, as predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Sturm has published Op-Eds on the apocalypse for many newspapers and has co-edited the book, Mapping the End Times. Whether intentionally or not, although he argues against the apocalyptical and millennial thinking, publishing on such a topic could be a route to profiting on humanities anxieties about not knowing the absolutes of existence.

Sturm describes two types of Mayan apocalypse thinking; 1) “Christian dispensationalists” and 2) “Secular apocalypticists”. He then goes into the idea of Discovery and History Channel programs that have used science to support their shows yet have ignored mainstream scientists and Mayan archaeologists who have argued against the apocalyptic/ millennial thinking. Sturm wrote about the thinking of our generation and that of many generations past, in regards to the idea that “we are unique” and hence “live in exceptional times, the End of Times”. He mentions that this thinking is affirmed by our 24 hr access to media cycles and blogs that provide support for improvised conspiracies. It seems appropriate to quote Bernard Cohen, political scientist, who astutely wrote “The mass media may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about… The world will look different to different people, depending… on the map that is drawn for them by the writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read.” Essentially, the more that individuals read about and subscribe to watching media about millennialism and apocalyptic thinking, the more they will think about it and create it to be a part of their cognitive schemas.

Sturm spoke about the many setbacks that seem to support people’s beliefs of the end of times as existing now. He mentioned the large quantity of polls taken since WWII that have demonstrated Americans increasingly pessimistic views on the decline of the quality of circumstances. Contrasting these “End of Time” views, David G. Bromley states “Many of the movements that initially boasted a millennial or apocalyptic ideology, with members expecting imminent world-transforming events, have revised such expectations and now are discussing longer-term futures and express less certainty about the end of human history”. It seems to be quite easy for humanity to shift their ideas in order to accommodate reality. If what they once believed would happen didn’t happen, the only way to go forward would be to conveniently create some type of explanation.

Sturm ends his article with a profound idea stating that rather than throwing up our hands to apocalyptic thinking, we should focus our efforts on Millennialism and worlds to follow for salvation. Essentially, by focusing on the negative, we are taking away from the possibility of imagining a better world. The website “Future Conscience” (http://www.futureconscience.com/top-10-futurist-websites/) provides a list of websites that give inspiration about the future of humanity. A refreshing source of positive thinking!

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