A Brave New World

Posted by David Smerdon on Dec 21, 2012 in Non-chess |

Thursday, 7:00 pm, 20th December 2012

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The day before the world ends.


Tomorrow is December 21, 2012: The day the world ends, at least according to the ancient Mayans.  I’ve always loved those tricky hypothetical questions such as “What would you do if you knew today was your last day on earth?” Clearly I can now answer this one: write a blog post, of course.

Seeing as this is obviously the last entry on davidsmerdon.com if the Mayans had it right, I think it’s high time I added a bit of rigour to the site.  Specifically, I’m quite disconcerted by the distinct lack of science and critical analysis in the very public debate about the impending end of civilisation as we know it.  It’s time someone stood up and asked the tough questions.

I’m not for a second debating that the Mayans aren’t right, of course.  Sure they made a few calculation errors along the way – apparently they didn’t factor in leap years, but I make that mistake every four years myself, so who am I to judge?  Besides, when you’re using a circular calendar to calculate “B’al’tun 13” using base 20 over the course of five millennia, there are bound to be a few rounding errors.  My grocer forgot to charge me for onions this morning; these things happen.

The Mayan calendar: Easy to forget to carry the 2.

And never mind that the ancient Mayans are supposed to have accurately predicted the planet’s demise almost 3000 years in the future correct to the day – but they didn’t see the Spanish coming.  There’s probably a fair case there to say they should have been less big-picture, more detail-orientated.  But that’s not my gripe.

No; what really gets to me is the lack of specificity over this whole end-of-the-world thing.  Even the term itself is ambiguous.  What world ends?  Does it mean the earth itself, or all natural life upon it, or just human civilisation?  If it’s more a human cleansing ala the Biblical flood (although perhaps this time featuring zombies), does this allow for survivors?  Some societies of scardy-cats have indeed fled to mountain retreats around the world in preparation for tomorrow, suggesting a fear of a water-based assault – but if the medium is in fact land based, such as earthquakes, lightning or fireballs from heaven, this seems like a terrible survival strategy.

And furthermore, “December 21” is still quite a broad timeframe for the earth’s destruction.  Is it going to last all day, or just part of the day – and if so, which?  And in which timezone?  Technically it’s already the 21st in Australia, but so far, according to my friends, it just seems like a normal summer’s night.  Is it going to happen at the same time around the world, or stagger its cruel path heading west of the international date line?  Hmm.

A bit of research has led me to discover that “11:00 am” is the best guide for end-of-the-world kick-off.  Assuming the Mayans were using local pre-Columbian time, that gives us another 22 hours or so of human enjoyment (by which time, ironically, the east coast of Australia will have hit December 22). Honestly, where’s the rigour?!  It’s like the Mayans never had to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

In case you think the world’s not taking this seriously, think again. Apparently, 33 schools in Michigan have closed for tomorrow due to “doomsday rumors”.  The Russian Minister for Emergency Situations (no, I didn’t make that up) has made several announcements to “quell the panic” among Russians, who’ve apparently bought up most of the stock supplies in several parts of the country.  And of course Australia’s own Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, addressed the nation over the impending global crisis, saying that she would always fight for Australians,  “…whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies [see? I told you], demonic hell-beasts, or from the total triumph of K-Pop.”  (See her inspiring address here.)

You might thus be wondering whether I’m taking this approaching cataclysm a tad casually.  Au contraire, my naive reader.  Let us assume that, seeing as the Mayans weren’t aware of air travel, the imminent global calamity is indeed land-based (floods, zombies or otherwise).  Conveniently, I fly back to Australia at 10:30 am tomorrow morning, thus I will be airborne when the predicted deluge hits Dutch time.  If in fact it’s old-school Mayan time when the party gets rocking, I’ll be safely aboard a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777, hovering somewhere over the north-east coast of Australia.  Not a bad area for human civilisation to begin to rebuild itself – though we may have to live off small bags of peanuts and incomprehensively small cans of soft drink for a while, and that future generations of humankind share a disproportionately high amount of genetic similarity to airline staff.

The future of humanity: Balding and perplexed.

While my survival and those of my fellow passengers is now undeniable, I’ve come to realise that I don’t possess any useful skills to aid the rebuilding of the planet.  I can’t build anything, I have no medical training and my horticultural skills don’t even extend to Farmville.  And I hardly think post-apocalyptic survivors have much need for an economist.  No, there can be only one appropriate position in the brave new world for a skill-less loud mouth such as myself: El Presidente.  That’s right: as leader of mankind, my lack of tractable contribution to society is well masked by delegation, long-winded speeches and clever national accounting (which, given that all money will have been eradicated, shouldn’t be too hard).  There could be no more perfect fit.

Happy End-of-the-World, readers.  I’m sorry you didn’t think ahead or take the threat seriously enough to ensure your own survival, and this saddens me.  But don’t worry: Our future is in safe hands.



1 Comment

Peter (not that Peter, the other one)
Dec 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Are you entering the Oz Open?



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