I was watching The History Channel this morning and following intently to a show about Nostradamus, The Great Pyramid and the Mayans and the end of the world. The main point that this series was trying to get across was how the world would most likely end in 2012 because of 1) that is when the Mayan calendar abruptly stops and must therefore signal the end of the world, 2) the ancient Egyptians had a similar belief based on the fact that over nine thousand years ago their ancestors and their society came to end when Venus entered and turned around in the sky while in the constellation Orion, a celestial event that will repeat itself in 2012, and finally, 3) the fact that the peak of the solar cycle will also occur around this time.

Now, even though this isn’t the stuff that I consider history and am, therefore, confused why it was on The History Channel; and neither is it the stuff that I think is based on any facts, I still watched, glued to my T.V. for the hour that it was on. Then at the end of that hour I had an epiphany. I noticed that this end of the world talk is not anything new. Hell no! There was the same hysteria around 2001 and the Y2K bug. In fact, this end of the world talk has been around, well, forever. When the first World War broke out, people considered that the war to end all wars, and when the Second World War was over and sixty million people perished, most of if not all of the worlds population breathed a sigh of relief when they managed to make it through that tumultuous time period with their lives.

So what was my epiphany, you ask?

Well, after the beginning of The First World War and on through until the end of the Cold War, humanity seemed to be focused on an effort to educated one another on the precarious position that we found ourselves in: for the first time man had not only the tools but also the mentality to wipe enemies off the face of the planet even if it meant their own demise, and in many cases we seemed to teeter on the brink of destruction and not even know it. But the realization that our destiny was in our own hands was always there. During the first half of the twentieth century we taught our children what to do in case of a nuclear strike by getting under school desks and covering their heads, and we even created a fictional “clock” which depicted in Cinderella like form how much time humanity had left before we turned into a pumpkins.

And it seemed to work. The scenario of scarring each other into thinking about how the end might come and how it could be prevented has seemed – for the time being – to have worked; treaties have been signed to reduce nuclear stockpiles, and plans for weapons that operate on a grand scale to wreak havoc and destruction seem to be a thing of the past.

But the realization that all is not lost seems to have taken a back seat to a new movement in the end of the world scenario: now, it would seem, the opinion is that all hope is lost, that our fate is no longer in the hands of ourselves, that the end will come whether we do anything about it or not, because it is set in stone as our to-be future. We can see this trend in the current fixation on prophecies by Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar. Does this shift somehow signal that we have accepted the fact that society will someday end as a forgone conclusion?