“It’s the end of the world as we know it! It’s the end of the world as we know it!” Things were looking pretty good when REM declared they felt fine about it. Times have changed, though, and not as many people are feeling all that cheerful.
I just stumbled across a Reuters Mayan calendar poll that says an incredible 15% of the people in the world believe the end of the world will come in their lifetimes and a full 10% believe it will happen in 2012, the Year of the Mayan Calendar. I’m not going to argue about the merits/lack-of-merits of the Mayan calendar debate: it’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is that so many people are feeling so pessimistic.
Scratching a little deeper beneath the surface of the poll, a whopping 22% of Americans believe in the 2012 apocalypse story. Of that 22%, the majority are under the age of 35. That’s a big chunk of younger Americans. Why are they all feeling so pessimistic? Karen Gottfried, the research manager at the company that conducted the poll for Reuters, offered this explanation:
“Perhaps it is because of the media attention coming from one interpretation of the Mayan prophecy that states the world ‘ends’ in our calendar year 2012,”
That’s a pretty lame excuse, if you ask me. Nobody would be paying any attention to an ancient Mayan prophecy if there was no reason for taking it seriously. Perhaps the real reason for all the pessimism has something to do with the breakdown of belief in capitalism. Maybe it has something to do with 9/11 and the niggling feeling that something’s not right about the official explanation. Perhaps Americans aren’t so sure their country is a force for good in the world. Maybe they don’t like being treated like puppets by corporate America. Maybe the rhetoric about America being a democracy “of the people, for the people and by the people” is starting to have a hollow ring. In other words, maybe they can see the impending end of the world as they know it and extrapolate from there.
It can’t be just the financial mess America is in. France is doing it tougher and only 6% of that population believes the end is nigh. Great Britain is a mess, but only 8% of Brits buy the 2012 apocalypse line. Nope, America and Turkey are tied for most paranoid (or clued in?), followed closely by South Africa and Argentina. There must be a connection there. You figure it out.
REM released It’s the End of the World as We Know It in 1987. Check out the happy young faces at this 1990’s concert. Most of them are still under 35. If the Reuters poll is anything to go by, as many as a third of them or more are no longer smiling. That’s depressing:
That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane –
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn –
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. . . . . .