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The end of whose world as we know it?

Not allowed to ask for the day off due to religious purposes, on the basis that the world is going to end, more than once. --Rule 39, Skippy’s List: The 213 things Skippy is no longer allowed to do in the U.S. Army

Harold Camping, 89-year-old Christian nutbag-fringe radio guy in the Bay Area, is convinced that the world was supposed to start ending today, and that it smells like earthquake weather here as of 6pm today, in another three hours.

He's already got a pretty big megaphone, and somehow people started pointing to him because he's being so amazingly, doggedly Wrong on the Internet (and airwaves, and other forms of broadcast media) and he's got people following him.

I'm fascinated by this not because of the media attention as such, but because I have had at least three incidents in the last ~10 years when someone close to me (a different one each time) was convinced that the world was going to end. I'm neopagan, and willing to extend a certain amount of leeway in the direction of people with various divinitory claims -- I'm not going to fully invest myself in something until it either has other backing or has actually happened -- but it doesn't automatically get brushed off as a complete nutbag either. (This guy, I'm willing to brush off.)

The first time someone whose general woo-sense I trusted started predicting some sort of apocalypse, I was all on board. It was ~2000, we were in Alaska, and we started making general emergency/survivalist preparations, so we could wind up making some sort of camp together in case everything went to hell.

The funny thing was, though, nothing happened. Well, almost nothing.

We were all high school and college age. In the intervening year, all of us had major life changes; the person at the epicenter of it all, if it was who I was thinking of, moved out of the country entirely, and now isn't heard from at all except through a cousin who himself moved out of the state and had life changes.

The second time, I wasn't getting any particular confirmation on my own checks of things, and again, the person at the epicenter went through a relocation, and some amazingly major other life changes including all sorts of relationship shenanigans.

The third time, the person at the epicenter had enough nuance to say that the world wasn't ending, it was just changing completely -- again, a major relocation, and this time babies.


From this small collection of anecdotes, and other divination-related stuff I've been peering at, it has demonstrated to me that even if a person whose general predictions for other things are spot-on, if they are predicting world-ending shenanigans based on their woo-sense alone and without actual scientific data (numbers pulled out of any edition of the Bible, I do not trust to be more accurate than any other form of divination, including dice, Tarot, and some dude's magic eternally-spinning top) then I have a counter-prediction:

Sometime vaguely around the time they claim (I don't trust exact dates given to me by a diviner, either), their own personal world will be rocked beyond the scope of their current tiny imagination. Every daily routine they depend on to give them stability will be gone. Their surroundings will likely change. It will probably be something that they initiate willingly themselves.

No one else will be affected as profoundly, unless of course they made drastic changes to their own lives in response to the prediction. Life will go on. The rest of the world will variously mock or pity the people who bought into the prediction.


It's easy to get sucked into apocalyptic thinking, if the person is convincing enough. The environment is increasingly fucked-up. We're hearing about more natural disasters. We've been polluting the world, and the news is getting more detailed, global coverage, bringing the news out of locations that in past years would have been too devastated to actually get news out of. Population pressure and the desire for convenience is shoving people into places that are actually a little too dangerous for humans to live in without occasionally dying.


None of this is new, and the world is not ending tonight. Though Harold Camping's own personal world just might.

Crossposted. comments.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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