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Apocalypses, Various

• December 20, 2012 • 8:31 AM

Paul Desmond on the apocalypse, which in his case was getting dumped for a wealthier man: “This is how the world ends, not with a whim but with a banker.”

No one seems to have a source for a common claim this week, that one in ten Americans believes the world will end tomorrow. If it’s true that the other nine out of ten Americans, and most actual Mayans, think the whole thing’s ridiculous, the idea’s high profile may be best explained by a study completed last year. Reported by Discovery, the investigation found a ten percent buy-in to be the point at which ideas begin to spread. Well, spread this has.

More simply, it could be that people who pass along stories — people like us here at the magazine — find this sort of thing irresistible. It’s hard to focus on serious matters when a note comes across your desk claiming (if loosely) that 31 million people (that’s ten percent of 312 million Americans) think rogue planet Nibiru will suddenly appear from behind the sun and smash into Earth, sometime before Saturday cartoons.

Live Science has taken one of the more earnest cracks at the case:

The modern world is chaotic and confusing, said Robert Sitler, a professor of Latin American studies at Stetson University in Florida and author of “The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012.” People worry about climate change, species’ extinction and environmental degradation, Sitler said. “There is, I think, an attraction in looking back to cultures that we imagine had a better way of doing things.”

It’s not like there’s less fantasy to be had during normal, non-apocalypse weeks. Just under one in ten Americans “frequently worry about being a victim of terrorism,” according to an AP poll, an item from Foreign Policy notes. The actual odds of being hurt in a terrorist act are about one in twenty million, according to a Reason study. A Rasmussen poll two months ago found that fewer Americans (7%) believe the country is winning the war on drugs than believe the world will end tomorrow. The FY 2013 budget request for the National Office of Drug Control Policy was $25.6 billion, a $415 million increase over FY2012. Only one in ten Americans believes he or she eats an unhealthy diet; simultaneously, one in three are obese.

A theory: the world will end tomorrow, we just won’t notice.

 

Marc Herman
Marc Herman is a writer in Barcelona. He is the author of The Shores of Tripoli.

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