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By DANNY TYREE
Underground bunkers. Food stockpiles. Suicide pacts.
All of these are coming into play as people interpret the infamous â€śMayan calendarâ€ť to mean that the world will end on December 21. According to a Reuters survey of 16,000 people in 21 countries, at least 10 percent of the population is genuinely concerned that weâ€™ll all be annihilated on that date.
Yes, one in 10 people are really agitated by all the books, documentaries and bumper stickers (â€śHowâ€™s my driving â€” as I dodge lava, meteors and stampeding wildlife?â€ť)
(Letâ€™s not forget the Incas and Aztecs who are agitated about missed opportunities â€” slapping their foreheads and declaring, â€śCalendars! And we wasted our promotional money on stupid ink pens!â€ť)
The diehard true believers, whoâ€™ve immersed themselves in occult tomes and survivalist manuals, inspire me to paraphrase my favorite line from â€śMonty Pythonâ€™s Life of Brianâ€ť: â€śI know an end-of-the-world scenario when I see one. And I should know â€” Iâ€™ve been through a few.â€ť
Then there are the anxiety-plagued individuals who have overheard and retained just enough to be dangerous. (â€śYeah, I remember this guy on this show said something or another about the end of the world and stuff. Something to do with trans fats â€” or was it adjustable rate mortgages...?â€ť)
Thank goodness there are still a few individuals who have remained mercifully oblivious to the whole business. (â€ś2012? Man, I thought it was 1954. No wonder Iâ€™ve been waiting so long for my pipe and slippers.â€ť)
(Granted, some people are actually EMBRACING the apocalypse. Some of my co-workers are planning to take tequila shots every time someone screams, â€śHelp! That indestructible building is collapsing on me! Aieeeeeee!â€ť)
It doesnâ€™t help when quasi-governmental agencies buy into the hysteria. The United States Postal Service recently petitioned Congress for the authority to raise the price of first-class postage to â€śa 5-gallon jug of water and a zombie-killing kit.â€ť
Archaeologists, astrophysicists and other mainstream types have made little headway in dispelling the panic. Perhaps theyâ€™ll benefit from a recent proclamation from the Vatican: â€śIf a calendar doesnâ€™t have puppies, daffodils, classic cars or Norman Rockwell, itâ€™s not worth diddly.â€ť
Some scholars admit that thereâ€™s a grain of truth behind the far-fetched predictions but say that the â€śend of the worldâ€ť is much more narrowly focused than the universal cataclysm usually pictured. Says one expert on the classical Mayan period: â€śThe Mesoamerican Long Count calendar actually says that on December 21 Jeremy Higgenbottom must take an afterschool job and start paying for his own &%$# first car.â€ť (â€śNooooooooooo!â€ť)
Of course not everyone who gives credence to the â€ś2012 phenomenonâ€ť interprets the calendar as indicating doomsday. Various New Age types view December 21 as the beginning of a touchy-feely â€śdawning of the age of Aquariusâ€ť sort of transformative spiritual event. Ere long, mankind will join hand in hand to declare something like â€śPlease be kind...remember to rewind.â€ť (Hey, YOU have trouble remembering anniversaries. Cut the Mayas a little slack if a 5125-year calendar cycle is a few decades late.)
Maybe we should all just ignore the hype, focus on cherishing our loved ones on Christmas, change our fire alarm batteries on New Yearâ€™s Eve and make sincere resolutions for a bright 2013.
It wouldnâ€™t be the end of the world.
Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page â€śTyreeâ€™s Tyradesâ€ť. His weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.