THE APOCALYPSE ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Once and a while I’ll spot what looks like another sign of the Apocalypse — that is, if Tom Robbins had authored The Book of Revelations.

Last week, I was in traffic behind a Hummer bearing a bumper sticker reading “Namaste.” That’s right, a consumer-version military assault vehicle with a Sanskrit salutation on its butt end. Driven by a petite blonde.

I was tempted to follow the ponytailed pilot home and inquire how such things happen. But I didn’t want to alarm her — or worse, her partner, who I imagined as a tattoo-splattered behemoth with a cammo-patterned yoga mat.

Speaking of apocalyptic signs, by the end of December the jig is up. As we all know, that’s when the Mayan 10,000-year long count ends, along with TWAWKI (the World As We Know It). If you haven’t already made arrangements for an underground bunker or decommissioned missile silo, I recommend you enjoy your last few weeks of 2012 to the fullest.

Never mind that a group of indigenous Mayan people recently held a press conference to debunk Northerners’ misinterpretations of their calendar. Forget that New Age titles on the 2012 scare started showing up in bookstore remainder bins almost a year ago, or that self-made experts on Mesoamerican mythology are now furiously backpedalling. We need our prophetic nightmares wherever we can find ’em. They make life more interesting.

Perhaps our biggest fear isn’t that the world will end or transform utterly at the end of this year. Our biggest fear is that it will remain the same. Perhaps it will be business as usual right into 2013, with humanity doing two steps forward and two steps back — a jig at the edge of the cliff.

Call me a skeptic. Although I’m constitutionally allergic to prophecy, every once and a while something mythic will make me go “hmmm” — as when I recently discovered citations from the Mayans’ sacred text the Popul Vuh.

According to the Popul Vuh, the Gods initially created two races of people (mud and wood) who failed to embrace and honor the world. So they created a new race for the far-off future. “The corn people had great vision and understanding, too great in fact, so the gods veiled their abilities, which caused them to slowly move away from nature; they forgot how to respect the gods and the natural law,” notes writer Jill Ettinger.

That certainly sounds like the corn-fed citizens of the northern hemisphere. High-fructose corn syrup is almost every other thing we eat, mostly from genetically modified strains. “If you take a snip of hair or a nail clipping from an American and run it through a mass spectrometer, you will discover that most of the carbon in his or her body… originally came from corn,” observes author Michael Pollen.

A-maize-ing.

Not only that, a combination of global trade liberalization and massive subsidies to agribiz firms have allowed the US to dump corn on the world market, at prices undercutting small farmers in the southern hemisphere. The massive exodus of poor Mexicans across the US border beginning in the nineties is largely due to northern-engineered market dislocations of Mexico’s biggest cash crop.

To paraphrase a famous Latin American figure, the corn people “have a lot of ’splainin’ to do.”

There’s more. In the documentary Genetic Roulette, a conga line of scientists, doctors, veterinarians and health activists rhyme off the dangers of genetically modified foods. They claim the explosion in recent years of chronic illnesses, food allergies, and immune system disturbances are traceable to our monkey wrenching of plant DNA – principally corn.

Still, mythic prophecy hasn’t had much of a track record – except for the Aztecs, of course. By sheer chance or some perverse click of cosmic gears, the appearance of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1519 coincided with the prophesied return of the their culture-giving god, Quetzalcoatl. With his fair skin and red beard, Cortes was a dead ringer for the Big Q. He used this fortuitous case of mistaken identity to launch war on the godsmacked people. The Aztec priest class, not incidentally, were big on human sacrifice to demanding deities, just like those of the Mayans.

The Aztec conquest remains a cautionary tale for today’s End Times enthusiasts, or anyone planning their life around prophecy. That said, the corn people connection has me scratching my head.

The Vancouver Courier,  November 21, 2012

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