Here it is, almost the end of the world, and nothing but fun plans for the weekend. How often does one get to say that?
It’s true. Harold Camping has (again) predicted the Rapture, the time when some people will be wafted into a glorious eternity with their savior, leaving the rest of us to… plunder their stuff, and take care of their pets. I don’t know about you, but I’m rather hoping the neighbors get lifted up, up, and away. Then their wonderful dog Nutmeg can join my pack.
In 1999, many of us in the computer field spent our New Year’s Eve at work, ensuring that our work in taking care of all the lines of code for Y2K was not wasted. As someone who was working for the power company at the time, this was something of a big deal — there were concerns about power suddenly just stopping as the clock turned over. And yes, I will admit to toying with the idea of sneaking off and turning out the lights on our floor at the stroke of midnight, and it was my boss who encouraged me to do so.
Plausible deniability, I’m guessin’.
At the time, many people were preparing for the worst. The survivalists were giddy with excitement — finally, they might be able to get away with shooting somebody! — and even many “normal” people were stocking up on water and supplies, just in case. The news interviewed people who expected planes to drop from the skies like turkeys as reported by WKRP in Cincinnati, and The End Was Near.
But it wasn’t. Despite having an actual problem to resolve, it was resolved, and things went smoothly along into the next day. As they will this weekend, too, despite people who really, really think there are going to be a lot of empty shoes lying around with faint wisps of smoke coming from them as the only remainder of the Saved.
As we know, people believe odd things, things with no basis in fact. This particular hysteria has gained ground because of several factors, including fear of the unknown, desperate hope for a better (after) life, or concern about what’s going on in the world today. It’s shrinking, our planet. We’re becoming a global community, like it or not, and the simple binary answers many have found comfort in from their religious texts may not always be up to the task of dealing with what the human mind does on its own.
What bothers me most about all this isn’t the gross amounts of money these charlatans are making off the unwary, the faithful, the believers, but that it’s going to happen all over again. Sure enough, just like the last time Camping made this same prediction in 1994, there will be some excuse for why it didn’t happen. Some people will be chagrined, some will be angry, and others will absolutely accept the next person to come along who predicts the end of days.
They get away with it because there are no consequences for them. They lose nothing, neither Camping nor his followers. True believers haven’t been willing to step up and put all their assets into an escrow account that automatically and irrevocably transfers out of their control (preferably into mine), because deep down they’re still attached to it. Wouldn’t it be nice if one couldn’t predict the end of the world without putting up what is dear to them if they’re wrong, to prevent this kind of abuse in the future?
I’m going to make a different prediction: people will not be wafted up to heaven this weekend, and the world will not end in five months. Our lives, the society we live in, and even our very planet are going to be whatever we make it. And best of all, this prediction is completely free — you don’t even need to buy the t-shirt.