Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It ...

The end of the Mayan Long Count, also known as the 2012 Phenomenon, is synonymous with imminent doom destined to occur on 21 December this year. But before you disappear into your apocalyptic-proof bunker with your stash of non-perishables, I am here to tell you that it isn’t the end of the world. Not yet, anyway.

It’s unlikely that ancient Mayan annals contain apocalyptic predictions. These prophecies are modern fabrications usually generated by the media to create fear and hysteria. The 2012 Phenomenon draws more from the New Age movement and a fascination with esoteric teachings than it does from ancient Mayan culture. The idea that the Mayan Long Count ‘ends’ on 21 December 2012 with disastrous consequences for the world misrepresents Mayan civilisation.

One of the earliest records concerning the calendar’s connection to cataclysmic events involves Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1502 to the Americas. End-of-the-world predictions were widespread amongst Europeans during the early years of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, and Columbus believed that his discovery of ‘most distant lands’ was prophesied and would bring about the Apocalypse.

By contrast, the people of ancient Maya were concerned with developing a sophisticated civilisation in the Yucatan and Guatemala, not predicting events for a future world they would not live to see. The Mayans reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. 250 to 900 AD) where they established a method of timekeeping called the Long Count, a system more complex than our Western calendar system. The Mayan calendar describes the number of cycles through which Humanity must pass in order to reach certain stages of evolutionary consciousness. The exact timing of the beginning date of the Long Count falls on a day the Sun was on the zenith point, which corresponds to 11 August 3114 BC in the Gregorian calendar. Archaeologists believe that the final date - 21 December 2012 - is based on this solar zenith day.
The end of the Mayan Long Count appears to be astrologically significant because it falls on a Solstice. However, its astrological value lies in its connection to the Uranus-Pluto transit of March 2011, an event which triggered a series of global disruptions such as the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street protest movements in the West, the collapse of the Eurozone, and panic over ecological issues such as scarcity of food, water, and oil. Here we have erratic individualism (Uranus in Aries) clashing with the status quo (Pluto in Capricorn). Our individual rights and freedoms, as well as the wellbeing of the planet, are at odds with retaining and protecting capitalist power. This turbulent period in the world’s history will end in 2015, but not before our personal and collective ethics go through the wringer. Expect to see the institutions of mass capitalism weaken as people power gains momentum over the next three years.
This ties in beautifully with the end of the Mayan Long Count where the current cycle finishes with the destruction of outmoded ways of living, and begins with a new cycle called the Fifth World. We can mark the date 21 December 2012 as the beginning of spiritual maturation; the result of a disconnected and dissatisfied society that struggles to find meaningful answers to life’s big questions:
Who am I? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life?
So how does the 2012 Phenomenon affect the Inner West? What happens this year totally depends on what Inner Westies decide to make of it. It can be a blessing or a curse, depending on our perspective and the actions we take. We can stand still, shrug our shoulders and sigh ‘that’s the way it is’, or we can feel empowered and supported by the Universal forces at work.
I see movements such as Reclaim the Lanes and Reclaim the Streets revitalised and gaining power through repossession of poorly utilised urban spaces in the name of community spirit, creativity, and fun. Support for small businesses and legendary landmarks such as the Annandale Hotel will increase, as locals grasp the importance of preserving these unique gems. There will be a swing away from affluent sectors of the community waging and winning campaigns against desperately needed affordable housing, public transport, and other services. The tables will turn on those lobbying against the creative class, the poor and disabled, multiculturalism, and egalitarianism, ensuring that diversity will always have a home in the Inner West.
All Inner Westies will benefit from Mayan wisdom by integrating their modern lifestyle with a rich spiritual life and a genuine sense of community. After 21 December, older residents in particular will yearn for the traditional values of former working class suburbs like Balmain, Rozelle, and Marrickville. Balmain natives are frustrated by the popular view that the coolest activity their historic neighbourhood has to offer is standing in the queue outside Zumbo’s cake shop! Locals will feel homesick for a time when pubs acted as major social centres that glued the community together, and not the over-priced wine bars and bistros they are now. It will become clear that middle class values perpetuated by the upwardly mobile fail in a working class community enriched by people who choose not to succumb to the live-to-work ethic that prevails in Sydney.

Far from being an overblown catastrophe over nothing, the 2012 Phenomenon can be a time of positive transformation for the Inner West. The various grassroots movements that are emerging globally to fight corporate and government control are sprouting on a micro level in our backyard in a quest to reclaim the community that so many of us love. The Gods of Change are on our side.
Originally published in C!ao magazine, issue #190, 22 June 2012. With thanks and respect.

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