End of the World?
So apparently the world didn’t end on Sunday. Harold Camping admits to being a little mystified as to why his prediction didn’t come to pass.
It’s easy to scoff at people like Camping and his followers, but we live in a society where rapid changes in cultural, social, and economic conditions have left many people lost and bewildered. Deregulation of the financial system in the 1980s, coupled with globalisation, has meant the moving offshore of many low-skilled jobs and that has had a significant effect on employment conditions. Ongoing wars in many places has seen an increase in global migration, including asylum-seeking, and there is an apparent increase in terrorism and other overt acts of religious and political intolerance. On top of this, the tension between tradition and liberal values has widened, including the global gay-pride movement, which Camping singles out as a sign of the impending apocalypse.
In the face of these issues, many people cling to traditional values, and we see the rise of religious and political fundamentalisms, such as the tea-party movement, the father’s movement, the submissive wives movement, and an increase in interest in things like heritage festivals, genealogy, and other celebrations of history. Of course, I’m not saying these are all bad things.
In a society that is increasingly shades of grey, people who like their world to be black and white will often take refuge in totalising belief systems that claim to explain everything. It’s no surprise to me that Camping’s movement attracted many people. Hanging on to a mystical insight that claims to be able to see through all the clutter to an eternal truth must seem very comforting to someone who feels that they just don’t belong in the world any more.
So it’s kind of fun to mock the looneys, but behind the humour there are a lot of people who are hurting, and the failure of world to end will only compound their disillusionment and sense of loss.