Beyond the Mayan Calendar: A deeper look into society’s fascination with the End of the World

end of the world 06 ExtremePrepper-wk48For families who can’t afford to buy large quantities of storable food, Rawles suggests to double up on staple food purchases.

But for the more serious survivalist, there are many companies that sell storable food and other survival gear. And along with the rise of the prepper movement, many of these survival stores have seen sales boost.

“Yes, there’s a surge in sales,” says Wade Pierson, whose Lethbridge-based company In Case Of specializes in water and freeze-dried food storage. “We’re busy, busy every day shipping across Canada.”

Pierson says his customers come from a variety of backgrounds and not all of his clients are living on the fringes of society like one may think.

“We’ve got a lot of customers that are in the financial markets that are really buying a lot more food right now,” Pierson says. “I think we should all be concerned with that.”

Pierson fears an economic meltdown would be worse than a natural disaster because it would be more pervasive and affect a greater number of people regardless if they’re rich or poor.

But Pierson, who says he refuses to own a gun, insists his company doesn’t promote fear mongering and hopes society will never break down to the level many of his gun-crazy clients see coming.

“There’s some hardcore preppers in Canada. We have a lot of customers who order product in palette-load quantities,” he says. “They pay strictly in cash; they don’t want any paper trail; they don’t want the government or their neighbours to know what they have. Boy, there’s some real extremists out there.”

Pierson says some of his most “unique customers” are those swept up with the predictions of disaster associated with the 2012 phenomenon and the so-called end of the Maya calendar.

end of the world 02

For true believers 2012 will bring an array of events, including solar flares, shifting magnetic poles and cosmic collisions, ultimately causing the destruction of the planet.

The idea comes from a large stone monument left behind by the Maya, which contains a date within the Maya long count calendar that marks the end of a long period of time – or the end of the 13th baktun. A baktun equals about 400 years and is considered an epoch-like period for the Maya. In correlation to our Western calendar, the 13th baktun happens to end on Dec. 21, 2012.

A group of writers and scholars picked up on this date in the 1960s and ‘70s and concluded it meant the end of the Maya calendar and a cataclysmic end of the world. And some believed it marked a time where a new world would rise from the ashes of the old.

However, scientists today dismiss this hype and describe the end of the 13th baktun as just another date for the Maya among many.

“Dec. 21, 2012, is not considered by the Maya to be the end of the calendar, or the end of time, or the end of anything except for the end of a very large period of time like a millennium,” says Kathryn Reese-Taylor, an expert in Mayan archaeology at the University of Calgary.

“They don’t even really focus very much on this particular time period,” she says. “In fact, they only mention it once in all the thousands of texts that we have for the Maya. So they are not the harbingers of doom that they are portrayed to be.”

Reese-Taylor says the Maya and the end of the world have entered the mainstream in the West due to our culture’s fascination with apocalyptic scenarios, which stems from our earliest ancestors interpretations of religious texts such as the book of Revelations. And the dizzyingly long list of failed doomsday predictions backs up her observation.

In 2011, American Christian radio host Harold Camping spread the hype that Judgement Day would happen in May with a massive billboard campaign across the U.S. Then there’s the Jehovah’s Witness religion, which has predicted seven times Armageddon would arrive from 1914 to 1975. From the threat of Halley’s Comet in 1910 to the much-hyped Y2K bug, the list over the last century alone is almost of the same epic proportions as the predictions themselves.

Reese-Taylor says she doesn’t know where she will be on Dec. 21, 2012, but she’s looking forward to the day after since she won’t have to answer anymore questions about the so-called 2012 prophecy.

For Reese-Taylor the hype surrounding the Maya calendar takes away from real threats such as global climate change.

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