Nobody really expects the Mayan doomsday prediction to come true. But why are we always so interested in warnings of apocalypse?
End of days, deferred
Apocalypse soon? The start of 2012 has encouraged the now-tired speculation, mostly mocking but occasionally solemn, about an ancient Mayan calendar which seems to say that the world will end on December 21 of this year.
Few people can believe, deep down, that the so-called "long count" Mayan calendar is worth taking seriously. Indeed, officials in the Mayan regions of Mexico have taken pains to speak of the date as "transformation", as opposed to apocalypse. Most other people seem to be taking the supposed doomsday prediction as a joke.
This Mayan nonsense resonates so widely because humans, from the Mayans of ages past to the modern day, share a fascination with the concept of the end of days. Perhaps it is because global civilisation's complexity makes it feel fragile that apocalyptic scenarios - from nuclear winter to global warming - are so often heard in our time.
The prudent will not, we trust, live 2012 as if it will be their - and everyone's - last year. On that basis we wish our readers a happy new year, and we look forward to offering the same wish a year from today.