In 2012, I was in high school and the threat of the Mayan Calendar apocalypse was a hot topic. My friend group had a running joke that one of our numbers, a guy whose 18th birthday was 12/21, would singlehandedly destroy the world with his ascension into legal adulthood.
However, the Mayan Calendar apocalypse was not the first to be predicted. Before that was Y2k, wherein people believed all the modern technology would be wiped out. Recently there has been a string of movies and television series dominated by the idea of a zombie apocalypse. Survivalism in general seems to have reached an all-time high in American culture. Why does this obsession with the demise of the modern world exist, and where did it stem from?
This past decade has been difficult for many Americans. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the earthquakes plaguing California, the list of catastrophes goes on. With the rise of survivalism, Cultural Anthropologist Donnelly Hade asserts, “Sheltering in particular and survivalism in general provide a mechanism for taking an active role in one’s own protection; whether you live or die in the apocalypse simply becomes a matter of choice.”
Perhaps, then, this rise in apocalyptic predictions reflects a feeling of instability in a relatively tumultuous time. Preparing for the end of the world via zombie takeover or some sort of blast-from-the-past Mayan prediction is much less worrisome than preparing in face of an impending natural disaster. Although, personally, I think the Mayans just got lazy and realized their calendar wouldn’t have much significance 2,000 years in the future.
Reference: “Waiting for the end of the world…as we know it.” By Donnelly Hade