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What I've Learned
I'm glad this week's edition of the Advertiser comes out on December 20th, for it gives me one last opportunity to mock the notion that the world is going to end on the 21st.
In May of 2010, I wrote a column debunking the idea that the ancient Maya predicted doom for us all. And then in August and September of last year, I wrote three more columns demolishing some of the top reasons "experts" give for December 21, 2012 being the last day for life on earth.
When we wake up tomorrow and the world is still here, the leading proponents of this farce can glibly admit confusion, misapplication of calendar math, or whatever, for they will have made their millions in book sales, speaking tours, and DVD documentary sales, preying on the weak-minded.
It's not just the leading fear-mongers who have made money on this absurdity. I read that in China, scammers have taken advantage of many pensioners, bilking them out of their savings. How? By setting up fake charities and convincing the retirees that, since we are all about to die, it will bode well for them in the afterlife if they have given all their money to charity before doomsday struck.
I am reminded of the man who went to hell and discovered that instead of blistering heat, the place consisted of waist deep manure. He took his place among the residents, standing up to his belt in the stinking mess.
Everyone was drinking cocktails and chatting.
"The manure really stinks," he thought, "but we get to have drinks and socialize. This isn't so bad."
At that moment Satan arrived, cracked a whip, and yelled, "Break's over! Get back on your heads!"
If I were in charge of hell, there would be no breaks for scammers.
One nice thing about the Maya prediction scare, it has unleashed waves of humor on a global scale.
My favorite bit came just a week ago, from Australia, of all places.
On December 6, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, standing at a podium and flanked by Australian flags, delivered a 50-second, straight-faced address on the topic. Here is a transcript of her remarks.
"My remaining fellow Australians,
"The end of the world is coming. It wasn't Y2K. It wasn't even the carbon price. It turns out that the Mayan calendar was true. While Australia's best and brightest at the CSIRO have not been able to confirm this, I'm confident in Triple J's prediction that the world is about to end.
"Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts, or from the total triumph of K-Pop, if you know one thing about me, it is this: I will always fight for you to the very end.
"And at least this means I won't have to do Q&A again.
"Good luck to you all."
Her deadpan delivery made this all the more brilliant. Here are a few explanations of her remarks for the nonAussies among us.
Y2K should need no explanation. Of all the scares of recent years, this one, the fear that a software error would make computers unable to recognize the year 2000 and cause everything from electric toasters to nuclear reactor plants to shut down, has been the only scare with any possible substance.
Our oldest son, Joseph, pranked us all pretty good. On December 31, 1999, as our family gathered in the living room and nervously counted down the last 10 seconds to midnight, Joe, who had slipped quietly down to the basement, flipped off the main breaker just as we got to zero.
We were stunned into silence, and it was several frightening seconds before we realized that other houses in the neighborhood still had power.
CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) is Australia's national science agency.
Prime Minister Gillard's reference to carbon price is best explained by quoting Wikipedia:
"A carbon pricing scheme in Australia, commonly referred to as a carbon tax, commenced on 1 July 2012; it requires businesses emitting over 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually to purchase emissions permits."
Triple J is a nationally networked Australian radio station.
K-Pop, in case you don't know – and if you don't know, count yourself lucky – refers to Korean pop music.
Q&A is an Australian TV show in which politicians are asked hard questions by the audience.
In my May, 2010 column, I said that on December 22, 2012, I plan to get a haircut and do some last-minute Christmas shopping.
Now that the date is closer, let me add: go for an early-morning Nordic walk, play Chutes and Ladders with my grand kids, and be thankful I don't have to write any more Maya calendar columns.