The hype: the Mayan prophecy has been retold and resold ad nauseam by the History Channel and many other outlets, the blockbuster movie was made, the Christians made their own movie and reinvented the entire Mayan myth to evangelize, numerous experts -some with good intentions and others eyeing the opportunities to sell their books- gave their advice.
The backbone of the hype, as I understand it, is as follows: the Mayans had a calendar which was much more scientifically and mathematically accurate than our Gregorian one. It features an interplay between three different cycles whose ending and beginning coincide every five thousand years or so. The next ending of an era takes place on the solstice of the present year ... which happens to be my birthday, and so I take a special interest in these matters.
Add to this the fact that I was born late, was supposed to come into this world in October and waited until December. Didn't wanna leave the cozy cavern. And of all the dates, it had to be December 21.
I don't believe the world will end. I don't think that if all humans die, it would be the end of the world. The insects, the small mammals, the fish, will continue and will do well without us. They may even prosper without us, just as our ancestors prospered when the dinosaurs died off.
I have this strange theory that, if we become extinct, the ants with their use of each other for slavery, harvesting of fungi, ventilated colonies with complex architecture, caste system and other signs of civilization will eventually grow to replace us. When a mass extinction takes place, the larger animals always die first and the smaller ones benefit.
But no, I don't think humanity will become extinct. If most of us die off, small pockets of people will remain, and they may be faced with evolutionary pressures that give only the best adapted members the ability to pass on their genes. In the long term, this may even bring about speciation: the development of a post-human strain of people.
Speciation is actually unavoidable in light of geological history. During our early evolution, geneticists like Wells Spencer speculate that there may have been a time when only about 200 members of our species existed, and we're all descended from these small pockets of early hominids.
But again, I don't think this will happen. Here's what I do think: Mayan hyeroglyphs have been deciphered recently and there is a new interest in the revival of Mayan language, culture, and spirituality.
People in Central America who still speak Mayan are today fascinated by the rediscovery of their ancient heritage. Thousands of codexes and texts were burned and destroyed by the European priests during the Conquista, all this to convince them that they were illiterate Indians (although India was on the other side of Planet Earth) and to Christianize them in order to keep them docile. If we consider the vast amount of knowledge that the Mayans had about astronomy, mathematics, and architecture, among other fields of knowledge, we can surmise that the thousands of Mayan tablets that were lost under the yolk of the senile priesthood of Rome held probably as much knowledge as the Library of Alexandria.
In relatively recent times (historically speaking) there have been indigenous uprisings in Chiapas, in Bolivia, and elsewhere in the Americas. The mapuches in Chile are beginning to flirt with the idea of regional autonomy. Indigenous people on this continent have for five hundred years faced genocide, feudal systems of forced labor, slavery, poverty, lack of access to drinking water and education, humiliation, marginalization, and there is now in many places a re-emergence of their spiritual traditions and their peculiar ways of seeing the world with renewed pride.
After centuries of attempts at having their identities rubbed off and reinvented, their cultures are returning to a vitality in some places comparable to pre-colonial times. There is an increased tendency to re-tell history from a more honest perspective. We are living in the fullness of the post-colonial era.
How can we have forgotten that there were pyramids and irrigation systems in our hemisphere comparable to the ones in ancient Egypt and Rome BEFORE the colonial period ... when the remnants of these things are still among us? What does it take to erase in the collective psyche of a people the memory of things that still stand under our noses?
It's obvious that the 2012 hype satiates a cultural hunger. I believe that 2012 is a useful tool for people to learn a more accurate version of history and for the First Nations to embody the imperative to speak history from their perspective, to remind us that the Mayans and many other nations before them were here for over 15,000 years before our culture was established. We are becoming aware of cycles of history that predated us by millenia and gaining humility and perspective.
If this is what 2012 represents: a mark in time after which we cease celebrating Colombus Day, as if physical and cultural genocide was a major accomplishment of our civilization, then let me be the first one to welcome the 2012 hype.
I will celebrate my birthday this year in solidarity with the descendants of the Mayans in Chiapas, who are returning to their indigenous communal ways and creating a stateless society based on participatory democracy. When one enters the autonomous region of Chiapas, one reads the following sign:
"You are now entering the autonomous territory of Chiapas: Here the people rule and the government obeys"
Before the Chiapas insurgence took place, the government would not bring drinkable water to the indigenous, or build schools, or even have a presence in Chiapas except a military one. So the marginalized indigenous population took control from the hands of their inept, racist government and today in the populist, autonomous region of Chiapas the indigenous mothers make sure that no child goes hungry or without the dignity of an education. Inspiring!
Our brothers and sisters from Chiapas taught us that we are the change we've been waiting for. If only our Occupy movement would accomplish the same here in the U.S. of A.: take back our government from the ruling, unelected corporate powers to give power and priority to the people ... 2012 would be indeed the beginning of a new age.