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2012: hype and realism

      By JAMAL KANJ

      Thursday, December 27, 2012

The year 2012 was the last in the 21st century to have matching day, month and year (12-12-12.) It will be another nine decades before new congruent calendar is possible.

That wasn't, however, the only unique phenomenon ending the year.

Hyped by Nostradamus 500 years ago, the ancient Mayan calendar - long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar - predicted December 21, 2012 to be the conclusion of year 5125 or the end of life on earth.

Very few took the Mayan calendar or Nostradamus' prophecy very seriously.

Yet movie makers and documentarians made 2012 a successful marketing theme for many of their productions.

Recognising the hype, I thought that would also be a good segue for this week's column on centuries-old doomsday theories.

The end of earth by supernatural power is a belief shared by mainstream Islam and Christianity.

Each, however, has avoided setting an exact date deciding instead on indefinite vague symbols.

Notwithstanding, some Christian dominations had diverged from the conventional Church doctrine by setting a "definite" calendar for the end of life as we know.

In 2000 and in anticipation for the end, famed Argentinean goalie Carlos Roa gave up football.

In that year Christian devotees even moved to Jerusalem to join Jesus in the battle to "slaughter the non-believers" and convert the surviving few for the "true path of salvation".

Earlier in the 20th century, Ellen G White, a self-proclaimed Christian prophetess, predicted that 1914 was the year for Jesus' return.

His followers sold everything awaiting their saviour.

Several apocalyptic predictions were made again in 1989, 1993 and 1994.

Since its founding in 1870, Jehovah's Witness could win a place the Guinness Book of Records for consistently failing - as an institution - to foretell doomsday.

The last controversial prediction was in 1975 when many church members sold their possession preparing for God's Kingdom on earth.

After 1975, and with the defection of many church members, Jehovah's Witness' elders decided to adopt the Christian and Muslim model by describing the Day of Judgment in nebulous terms.

I couldn't help but wonder if adherents to doomsday philosophy were selling their property to beat the market and hoping to reinvest after the "crash?" Or was it a down payment for their redemption?

Either way, in the "Kingdom" one would assume that absence of a banking system, paper currency and/or material possession would be of little value.

Back to sanity, 2012 was filled with tangible outcomes. Some were painful, while others were more hopeful.

The world economy is still trudging; Israel continues to flout international law with impunity. The Arab Spring has turned into an autumn of fratricide fight between a dictator striving to retain his inherited rule in Syria and an opposition throwing itself on the lap of international devils to defeat a homegrown evil.

On the positive side and after much vacillation, the Palestinian leadership had finally garnered the courage to stand up to Israel's proxy in Washington demanding a UN vote recognising Palestine as an Observer state at the General Assembly.

Despite nuisance transition to democracy, Egypt held its first ever free presidential election; a black man was re-elected in America and Sarkozy was booted out of office.

Let's hope 2013 to be the year for a peaceful transformation in Syria; steady evolution of egalitarian democracy in Egypt; an end to Israel's intransigence and the start of global economic recovery.

*Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab world issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He can be reached at jkanj@yahoo.com.