29 December 2012

Maybe There is Something to the Mayan Prophecy

I found out about the Mayan Prophecy quite late. It was already mid-December when I realized that hordes of "preppers" were getting ready to survive the end of the world.

I have to admit that I vaguely knew about a Mayan Prophecy but I didn't realize that the clearly marked Mayan Calendar you see below contained a definite prediction that on 21 December 2012 the world would cease to exist.

I assumed that the general idea must be similar to Christian Millennialism which predicts the end of an era and the start of a golden age where Christ would reign for a thousand years before the Day of Final Judgment

It turns out that the whole thing was some kind of misunderstanding and the Calendar was indeed predicting about the end of an era and the start of a new age.
Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Year of the Mayan Prophecy calls 21/12/12 the "hinge point" of the emergence of a new, more enlightened age - not an ending point for all civilisation.
"It is quite clear that the Mayan system envisages a new cycle of the calendar beginning on the 22 December 2012," says Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods. 
What we have here is an extension of the basic Winter Solstice symbolism, from darkness to light, this time to herald a more enlightened epoch.

As you can guess, I don't believe in prophecies of any kind. But, I kind of liked the idea that we might be entering a new and more humane period in our collective history. In fact, I ended my most recent post with the optimistic belief that the Zeitgeist has shifted towards a nicer and warmer perspective and young people do not seem to share the greedy and self-centered ideology of their parents.

So, this being my end of year post, I decided to go with the Mayan flow and enumerate all the signs that seem to indicate that we might be leaving the Gordon Gekko years behind and entering a better era.

A New Age?

I would like to claim that 2012 was the year the forces that dominate the economic and political realms and control the media narrative realized for the first time that the people whose choices and voices they pretend to reflect were a lot more liberal, tolerant and progressive than they have been claiming.

2012 is also the year, reality entered the conservative bubble in a way to make denials hard to maintain.

1. First there was Occupy Wall Street. Despite derisive coverage by the media and excessive use of force by the authorities, the protesters were able to bring to popular consciousness the oligarchical position of 1 percenters. Since 2008, it has been getting harder to sustain the illusion that capitalism is synonymous with freedom, opportunity and affluence for all and this year we might have crossed the Rubicon.

In fact, this 99% and 1% divide image was so successful that even 1 percenters began to feel a little uneasy. Last week, an opinion poll found that a majority of these 1 percenters would like to pay higher taxes. A whopping 67% want to pay more, up from 62 percent a few months ago. Of course, their primary concern is not fairness, they are just afraid that the current economic disparity might damage the system and thereby reduce the value of their assets. But it is still an amazing change to make them realize that their greed might destroy the system.

2. Climate Change. 2012 is the year people finally realized that we are on a high speed train rushing towards a cliff and if nothing is done quickly we are facing a large scale disaster.

As Tom Engelhardt put it:
If climate change had a personality in this year of so many grim records -- wildfires, drought, heat, carbon dioxide emissions -- it would definitely be saying: “I’m not the thing your grandchildren will have to deal with, I’m yours!” 

Maybe it was the Mayan karma that sent Sandy to shame the two presidential candidates for their studious silence on climate change. Before this year, all GOP candidates were deniers and the corporate media always used a balanced and respectful language about their views. Krugman illustrated this tendency with the line that "if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.”" Since Sandy, I see this "fair and balanced" approach less and less for climate change.

I think we may finally be aware that we will have to "think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger."

3. Gun Control in the US. As I mentioned recently, over the years, there have been hundreds of attacks on schools, universities and places of business. Throughout all this, NRA managed to control the agenda and prevented any discussion of gun control with the simplistic mantra that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." They convinced the majority of Americans that if everyone was armed, mass shootings would be prevented. (No one wondered if this were true how come Fort Hood shooting happened in the middle of a military base?)

But reality finally showed its well-known liberal bias this year and people began to realize that guns do kill people.

4. Attitude towards gays. It is now a popular truism that Will and Grace changed the way Americans looked at gays. You could say that the show removed the "otherness" of gays by portraying them as the people next door. Something the Cosby Show did for African Americans a decade earlier. But it seems that with the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2010, there is now a clear momentum towards gay marriage. For the first time, opinion polls show a majority of Americans supporting gay marriage. When Obama reversed its position (following Joe Biden's outburst) his advisers were worried about a backlash. Instead people either approved of the change of position or just shrugged it off.

As of November 2012, nine states and District of Columbia recognize gay marriage and it is likely that many more will begin to accept marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

I never understood why it bothered some people that others enjoy the same rights as they do. Fortunately, young people seem a lot more open about issues of sexuality and attitudes are changing.

5. Drugs. In practical terms, War on drugs meant that the US ended up with the highest rate of incarceration in the world (to give you an idea, its next door neighbor Canada ranks 123rd). They have a little over 3% of the adult population involved in the criminal justice system.

In recent years, people began questioning the wisdom of continuing this practice. In November elections, two states decided to decriminalize non-medical cannabis use and they are just the latest of a long line of local governments to force this issue.

6. Prison and criminal justice system reform. During the War on crime, the most successful politicians were the ones who pushed for the toughest sentences. Mandatory sentencing guidelines, "three strike and you are out" arrangements all date from that period. It was the height of the politics of fear. It seems that people are a bit sick of that and they are beginning to see the injustices committed in the name of War on crime.

7. Torture. During Bush years torture became an accepted practice in the US. Cheney repeatedly defended the waterboarding of suspects, claiming it saved lives. Most FBI specialists disagreed with the idea that torture can be effective. They correctly pointed out that you get too many lies with torture to make it worthwhile. And of course, the use of it and the acceptance of that practice transforms both the torturers and the wider society in which it takes place.

But the practice was defended with extreme examples such as a ticking nuclear bomb about to go off and there is only your knife and a terrorist's body parts between you and the total annihilation of a large city. And when Obama refused to prosecute Cheney, Rumsfeld and others who openly acknowledged their involvement in torture it became a bipartisan consensus.

Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks ago, a movie called Dark Zero Thirty opened in the US. It was the story of Bind Ladin's assassination by Navy Seals. The movie made the dubious claim that the CIA was able to track him down thanks to the use of torture. To my surprise, this became quite controversial. There was a bit of media storm, which is surprising in and of itself, as the corporate media never questions GOP practices that become part of the bipartisan consensus. But they did. Moreover, three Senators (one Republican) wrote to the Director Kathryn Bigelow and Sony Pictures and harshly criticized that fact that the film was perpetuating the myth that torture was effective. And they asked that the film was changed accordingly.

Of course nothing will come out of that but the very idea that this became an issue was a Zeitgeist indicator.

8. Taxes and the Social Safety Net. You heard about the so called Fiscal Cliff, right? And you also know that the grand bargain that will avert falling off that cliff consists of increasing (just a tiny bit) taxes for the very wealthy and cutting (drastically) Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Well, according to a new opinion poll, Americans have a very different perspective about the Grand Bargain. They are willing to accept higher taxes, some cuts in government services and military downsizing while preserving Social Security and Medicare.

But as the BBC put it wryly:
This, clearly, is not being discussed. 
In short, Americans seem less fearful, more tolerant and a lot more liberal than politicians, pundits and media figures.

So maybe there is a New Age ahead of us.

If that happens, I will be the first to convert to Mayan religion. And start using their Calendar.

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