Much ado about apocalypse

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MORBID FASCINATION: Once this prediction is proven unfounded, another will crop up

WILL the world end tomorrow? Will we and everything we hold near and dear be swallowed up by the earth? Will giant tsunamis sweep everything, including the most resilient of creatures such as cockroaches and telemarketers away?

This discussion about the End of Days is raging across the world, no thanks to the Mayan calendar, which will reach the end of a 394-year cycle tomorrow. This will be the 13th cycle, and apparently, the last.

No matter how bizarre the contention, there are those bracing themselves for an event more apocalyptic than Malaysia's loss last Thursday to Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals. At a supermarket near home on Sunday, an elderly couple was seen in deep discussion over their shopping list -- what do they need to buy to prepare for Armageddon? What they agreed on is the reason why Malaysia is the 13th largest consumer of instant noodles in the world -- Maggi mee.

They are not alone. In the New Sunday Times last week, it was reported that there are the Malaysians who have stocked up on mineral water and other necessities. When's the opportunity to consume canned tuna and fruit cocktail when the entire planet has been reduced to drifting space debris?

And then, there are those who have taken this opportunity to carry out mischief. In Seri Kembangan, Selangor, copies of a six-page printed "memorandum" are being passed around kopitiam and the wet market.

The memorandum claimed that on or around Dec 21, the earth will be blanketed in darkness for a few days as it goes through a "transition period". "The three-dimensional world that we live in will change into a four-dimensional one, in which humankind would be transformed. We will be able to teleport at will," it said.

That is welcome news. We will finally be able to travel at zero fares without having to pay the fuel surcharge and airport taxes.

Elsewhere, there are those even better prepared. In China's northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Lu Zhenghai, predicting a big flood tomorrow, spent his life savings building an ark-like vessel powered by three diesel engines.

In Melbourne, Australia, Robert Bast spent over A$350,000 (RM1.1 million) on a 30ha plot of land 454 metres above sea level to avoid tsunamis and flooding, on which he built a house and bunker. He also bought a pickup truck to drive him to the safe spot, batteries, generators, water purifiers, and gas cookers.

Tomorrow will, however, probably just pass like the days before it. Scientists have already dismissed the brouhaha as nothing more than a misinterpretation. There are no big asteroids near Earth, and no impending threats from supervolcanos, solar flares, polar shifts, and plagues. An alien or zombie invasion does not appear imminent, too. New evidence, they claim, indicates that the Earth will live on for another 7,000 years.

Th prediction for this year is also not the first time the End of Days has been brought up. There have been many predictions and prophecies through the years from well-known historical figures, religions and cultures. Some years -- 1666, 1999, 2000 -- have come up more often than most. But they all have one thing in common: none have come true so far.

It was believed that a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions would occur in 2000 due to the failure of computers to recognise the year 2000. Doomsayers predicted that everything we depended on technologically would grind to a halt. It did not.

But our morbid fascination with the end of the world persists. Once this prediction is proven to be unfounded, another one will surface.

Already, the social media is abuzz over a prediction apparently made by Nostradamus that Psy of Gangnam Style fame is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

"From the calm morning, the end will come when of the dancing horse the number of circles will be nine," the 16th-century French seer had supposedly prophecised in reference to Psy or Park Jae-Sang's horrendously popular dancing horse routine and number of YouTube hits.

"From the calm morning", it is said, refers to the country where Psy is from -- South Korea, which is known as the "land of the morning calm".

It is an Internet hoax, of course. Those who believe it are obviously those who will lap up anything, including the assertion that the world will end tomorrow.

Bugarach is a village under the 1,231m high peak of Bugarach, the high culminating point of the Corbieres range in southwestern France. Some doomsday theories designate Bugarach peak as a sacred mountain that will be spared the devastation during the end of the world.


Chok Suat Ling is New Sunday Times editor.

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