Joe Kitchen
Joe Kitchen

Has the end of the world been rescheduled?

I must admit I was one of the millions of naïve people worldwide who was duped by the Mayan’s so-called “end of the world” prophecy.

Not only duped, but my marriage was almost destroyed. From December 20 2012 right through to the 23, I insisted on sleeping alone on the sofa in our lounge. I wanted to be close to the TV set. Every hour or two I would wake up with a start, grab the remote, and hop through the international news channels. I was convinced we’d be hit by an asteroid. I was terrified of a full-scale war breaking out in the Middle East. I was watching out for earthquakes, tsunamis, the plague, anything to prove my dearly held New Age beliefs right.

As it were, those three dates were particularly devoid of earth-shattering events. Just about the most newsworthy event was the resignation of some cricket player I had never heard of from the Australian team.

So much for the missing crystal skulls, the alignment of the planets, the earth moving past the equinox of the galaxy, et cetera.

Now, in the aftermath of the Greatest Non-Event ever prophesied, now that all the authors of those best-selling books (books which, oddly enough, disappeared off the shelves of bookstores overnight) are laughing all the way to the banks even though their reputations are in tatters, I ask myself: are we really safe now? What if their predictions were right and they only had the exact timing wrong?

I watched the classic film The Time Machine — based on the book by HG Wells — on TCM recently. I was scared to watch it alone, so I asked my 12-year-old son to join me. Being a science-fiction fan, he loved it. I loved it too, but it raised troublesome questions in my mind.

Interestingly enough, the opening scene of the film depicts a dinner party shortly after the turn of a century: January 5 1900. The citizens of the Victorian Age who meet for this dinner party are totally ignorant of the tumultuous events awaiting them. They have no idea that, in the course of the next 100 years, mankind will invent petrol-driven cars and commercial airliners. They have no idea that two world wars are just around the corner. They cannot form any pictures in their minds of the atomic bomb, nor can they imagine that actual people will set foot on the moon. Not to mention the other forthcoming attractions: the internet, Aids, or miniskirts! As they sip their cognacs and sit around with their clearly uncomfortable hairstyles and all dressed up in their stuffy suits, they have no inkling that the world they know is heading towards a series of events far more incredible than anything they ever dreamed of. They are blissfully unaware that the 20th century will herald more changes than the whole of history combined.

None of these things were to transpire precisely at the turn of that century, though. The biggest news in the London papers that day was some victory the Boer army in South Africa had pulled off against the British. And to them, it was something relatively unimportant that happened on the other side of the globe.

Are we perhaps in the same situation as those Victorian gentlemen, apparently safe in our comfort zone, relaxing in our lounges, not realising how fast the future is hurtling towards us?

Even though the world as we know it did not end during the last month of 2012, I cannot completely shake a lingering feeling of mixed anticipation and dread. And it seems to be an apprehension shared by countless people all over the world. Nothing earth-shattering has happened yet, but what about the days and years to come? When global warming takes its toll, when our population growth escalates out of control, when we start losing the war against terror? When the internet either crashes, or becomes the means used by a united world government to control the masses? The spectre of the “fiscal cliff” and the subsequent economic meltdown has been narrowly avoided by American politicians, but have they really solved the underlying problems? What if the feared economic meltdown and all the subsequent chaos caused by such an event have merely being delayed?

The world did not end. Not yet. The Titanic is still sailing on. For now. Let’s drink a toast to that. But even as we rattle the ice cubes in our drinks, we should spare a thought to the large icebergs that may be lying, hidden from sight, in the uncharted seas ahead of us.

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