According to Harold Camping the world was due to end on Saturday 21st May 2011. Correction, the beginning of the end was due on this date. Apparently an enormous earthquake was expected to wipe out two million people. The remaining population could look forward to another five months of natural disasters before the inevitable Rapture. That would bring us to October. The real tragedy is that many believers ditched their jobs, bailed on their mortgages and took to the streets to campaign for worldwide recognition.
Back in the 16th Century Nostradamus predicted the end of the world would occur in 2012. Again, this would be caused by increased natural disasters, world war and corrupt politicians. It also ties in with Mayan prophecy, although experts argue their calendar differed to ours, and in fact, their proposed date has passed us by. Still, it doesn’t take a genius to see a pattern in all these predictions. Giant fireballs, erupting soils, super-size waves and gang warfare. It reads like a Marvel comic; colourful, exciting, phenomenal. Oh, and fictional.
Reading Sebastian Faulk’s Engleby has been a real thought provoker. Sure, he’s not indulging in fantastical ideas of the Apocalypse. He’s far more provincial than that. It’s undoubtedly a social commentary, and a poignant one indeed. Perhaps his finest observations within the narrative are Mike’s 1970s’ questions to the future:
“Got a cure for the common cold yet? Have you? Thought not. How’s your 2003 world, then? A few wars? Some genocide? Some Terrorism? Drugs? Abuse of children? High crime rate? Materialistic obsessions? More cars? Blah-blah pop music? Vulgar newspapers? Porn? Still wearing jeans?”
Suffice to say, many of us have complained about a cold to our doctors while wearing jeans. The morning’s headlines are full of invasions and threats to national security. Institutions are persistently apologising for the mistreatment of kids. The music industry rolls out reams of undistinguished boy and girl bands, no less thanks to Mr Cowell. Porn, tick. Drugs, tick. And so on. We might be downloading the latest app to our smartphone, a tribute to our age. But we’re not doing it with any deeper intellect than when our forefathers were striking sticks together to make fire. Progress breeds progress.
So what about Doomsday? Is it truly imminent? Haiti, Fukushima, 9/11, the Libyan uprising, among others, seem to indicate an urgency for the end of the world. Or at least an indication of its approach. Is the mere fact that people remain basically the same throughout the ages a greater suggestion of our mortality? Despite technology and perceived social advancement, we’re all going to meet our end. Is it simply that we’re afraid to do it alone?