It’s not a nice thought, but this is an easy prophecy to make. And it’s the singular prophecy surrounding December 21, 2012 that will almost surely come to pass. Perhaps you remember Heaven’s Gate. Heaven’s Gate was a San Diego based cult whose members, in 1997, committed collective suicide in anticipation of the advent of a UFO. The UFO was supposedly going to arrive with the Comet Hale-Bopp. Needless to say, the UFO didn’t arrive, but after the prophesied date for its appearance had come and gone, 39 people were dead.
Likewise, it’s not hard to guess what December 21, 2012 will bring: misery to families mourning the loss of loved ones caught in 2012 hysteria. There will be some people who will get themselves so worked up over this date that they will actually commit suicide in anticipation. Frightened by the end of the world, they’ll think it sensible to exit early, perhaps taking children with them. Of course, there will be the usual media hand wringing, and before the date arrives psychological professionals will go on television to counsel calm. But this today, at the National Geographic’s website, provides a hint of what’s really coming in 2012:
NASA’s Ask an Astrobiologist Web site . . . has received thousands of questions regarding the 2012 doomsday predictions—some of them disturbing, according to David Morrison, a senior scientist with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “A lot of [the submitters] are people who are genuinely frightened,” said Morrison, who thinks movie marketers, authors, and others out to make a buck are feeding some of the fears. “I’ve had two teenagers who were considering killing themselves, because they didn’t want to be around when the world ends,” he said. “Two women in the last two weeks said they were contemplating killing their children and themselves so they wouldn’t have to suffer through the end of the world.”
This really is a moral issue. It’s not a harmless cultural fad coming our way. There is literally a 2012 prophecy industry that has built up around the bogus December 21 “end of the world” date, and at least some people are likely to die because of the concerted circulation of this stupidity. In this case, rationality really does matter. The 2012 meme is a rebuke to our educational system and the failure of the schools to teach even the most elementary critical thinking skills to students. And televangelists, movie producers, booksellers, and New Age charlatans making money trucking in 2012 irrationality will have blood on their hands. Not that they’ll give a shit, but the rest of us should.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the above trailer (which you’ll have to click over to YouTube to watch) opens with a cult suicide, and then with the inane and paranoid conspiracy observation: “When they tell you not to panic, that’s when you run!” The trailer captures perfectly our contemporary collective moment in history, and the irrational forces driving it. It’s Rush Limbaugh meets Heaven’s Gate meets 2012. Art imitating life imitating art. Welcome to our pathetic cultural iteration. Look forward to a Tim LaHaye cameo in the above film. (And if there isn’t one, don’t you know that someone somewhere, over the past two years, was nevertheless on a phone breathlessly talking to “LaHaye’s people” trying to arrange one?)