2012: The Year The World (Doesn’t) End

Alternate titles:

Nothing’s Gonna Change My World


So This Is The New Year, And I Don’t Feel Any Different

We’re through the looking glass here, people.  2012.  Forget those rapture nutjobs and hypochondriacs, this is really the year that the world finally, horrifically comes to a screeching halt (or a halting screech; I forget).

The Mayans predicted it.  They didn’t predict their own imminent demise, but they nailed the end of the world.  And to be fair, nobody expects the Spanish conquistadors.

If there is one industry the recession could never dampen, it’s the Predicting the End of the World industry.  Quite the opposite, actually, as bad economic turns are the ideal time for wackadoos and doomsayers to find an audience.  “Father Coughlin” came to prominence during the 1930s Great Depression, and while he wasn’t the first firebrand preacher to gain notoriety, I think he can be seen as the precursor of both the bigoted televangelists like Pat Robertson and the fearmongering political extremists such as Glenn Beck.

What all of these people have in common, other than a serious lack of medications, is the commanded attention of millions of listeners and an unhealthy obsession with a looming apocalypse (with or without God).

The One Thing Conservatives and Progressives Can Agree On

From a purely subjective viewpoint, it seems to be that ‘End of the World Hysteria’ is more commonly found in those of the conservative persuasion, whether politically, religiously, socially or financially.

There is an abundance of reasons why this would be the case.  Conservatives tend to be religious, and pretty much all religions (certainly the Western ones) are steeped in apocalyptic imagery and prophecies.  Also, conservatism by its very name indicates a desire to maintain the status quo, to ‘conserve’ what we have (in contrast to ‘progressivism’).  In this way, as change is inevitable and the world is on a constant forward march away from the past, conservatives are right in predicting the end of the world.  Their world is always ending, dying daily a thousand deaths.

But End of the World Hysteria is not limited to conservatives.  Progressives have their own End Times Scenarios.*  Their version of the end usually involves the ills thrust upon us by modern science, like the fear of nuclear proliferation or a catastrophic climate change brought about by man-made technology.  It’s not so much that progressives fear science (that’s more a conservative persuasion), it’s just that they think it teeters towards going too far.

Each of these End Times Scenarios share a lofty distinction:  They’ve never been right.  We’ve seen a thousand Great Rapture dates come and go and the only thing of note that has occurred is great disappointment and the creation of the Seventh-Day Adventists.

On the opposite spectrum, we’ve been hearing about the evils of science for hundreds of years, though it’s only been since the mid-20th century that we actually began fearing that it could legitimately wipe us all out, h-bomb style.  The Cold War lasted roughly 45 years, and in that time, the world didn’t end, not even once.  Children were hiding under their desks for nothing.

But of course, if nuclear winter doesn’t get us, global summer surely will (that’s an allusion to Global Warming for you in the cheap seats).

It Could Happen

I can hear indignant parties retorting, “Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t.”

And they’re right.  The Past isn’t a sufficient predictor of the Future (why do I feel like I’ve said this recently?).  But, it’s a pretty strong one.  It’s one thing for the boy to cry ‘wolf’ three or four times.  It’s another for him to do it once a day, every day since the beginning of time.  Rational minds start to get skeptical.

The world isn’t going to end.  It just isn’t.  The world could end.  We could get blown up by a nuclear bomb.  And Jesus could come back (because, you know, God could exist).  But it won’t, we won’t, and he won’t (and he doesn’t). 

If you want some predictions for 2012 that are going to come true, I’ve got a few sure bets:

Jesus will not return.
The Four Horsemen will not come riding.
The end of the Mayan calendar will not mark the end of our world.
The global financial system will not collapse, returning us to a gold-based economy and leading to riots in the streets.
Our technology will not have a massive meltdown, returning us to the dark ages.
The inevitable legalization of gay marriage will not lead to the legalization of bestiality and child molestation, thus leading us down the path towards complete moral anarchy and cultural destruction.
The oceans will not rise up and cover all land masses.
Overpopulation will not lead to worldwide starvation and cannibalism.
The United States will not turn into a theocracy.  Nor will it become a fascist state.
The Large Hardon Collider will not cause a black hole that will destroy our solar system or universe.
The world will not end.

These are all statements I can make about the year 2012 without equivocation.  When 2013 comes rolling around, I will be right on all of the above statements.  I bet everything I own – and ever possibly will own – on it.

(Granted, if I’m wrong, in  most scenarios there won’t be anyone to collect on it, but still.  I won’t be wrong.)

You probably roll your eyes at most of these hypothetical End of the World Scenarios, but I’m guessing there are one or two on this list that you genuinely think might happen.  I’m frequently labeled a pessimist, yet I’m one of very few people who doesn’t fear any End of the World Scenarios.  Maybe it’s all that Star Trek I watched growing up, but I look to the future and see possibilities, never doomsday.

Apathy In Action

And, hey, I get it.  All this apocalyptic fear might be just what we need to get people to deal with very real problems.  After all, severe climate change could lead to the extinction of the human species if left unchecked.  If the Green Movement succeeds, bystanders will unfairly dismiss them as reactionaries when in fact it will have been their efforts that averted disaster.  (I’m more worried by the religious fanatics who want the world to end because it will validate their faith.)

But I don’t think engaging in End of the World Hysteria is the way to make a change, and I don’t think it’s converting people.  In truth, most of the changes would benefit us as a society regardless of climate change, and that should be the focus of the message.  Maybe I’m out of touch, but I believe it’s more convincing to explain the positive reasons for an action rather than focusing on the negative outcomes of inaction.

It seems it’s not enough that the world would be better off it we take action, we have to say that the world will end if we don’t.  But instead of making us less apathetic, these dire warnings make us more so because we’ve heard the cry of ‘wolf’ so many times, we can’t be bothered to care.  It’s time to make the world better because ‘better’ is its own reward.

We need leaders to remember how to speak to our optimism instead of preying on our pessimism.

New Years Resolution

If you need a resolution for the new year, how about you resolve to live not like the world is going to end tomorrow, but rather, like the world is going to be here for at least another two millennia.  Spend the year ignoring the doomsayers and prophets of apocalypse and seeking out the wisdom of optimists and visionaries. It might just become a habit.

I’m not suggesting we should ignore the very real problems that exist in this world.  Realizing that the world will still be here tomorrow means striving to make it a world worth living in, for everyone.  But, this year, when the man comes on the television to tell you that the world will end, turn it off.  Don’t debate the doomsday prophets, don’t allow them any credence by taking them seriously.  When they are proven wrong, you’ll know they’re a false prophet.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The world isn’t ending.  That’s the reason to celebrate the new year.

*There are certainly liberal religious people who fear the Biblical apocalypse, just as there are conservative religious people who don’t believe in the Rapture (but might fear nuclear war instead).  For brevity’s sake, I’m ignoring these outliers.

Class Warfare

Millionaire tax called ‘class warfare’ by GOP.

I’ve really tried to avoid broaching politics on this blog throughout most of this stupidity, but it’s hard to just completely ignore it.  If you rightly don’t care about this whole clusterfuck of inanity because you, again rightly, understand that this whole mess is about the political parties trying to get (or keep) their man in office and not about helping the nation recover from its economic woes, then I completely understand if you just want to scroll on past this post.

I don’t want to write it.

But it’s bugging the shit out of me, so I have to get it out, like exorcising a demon.  A demon of stupidity.

Let’s establish some facts:

Fact #1. The Obama proposal would increase taxes for .3% of ‘wage earners’, those making $1 million plus.  The Republicans are right in saying that it won’t make a huge dent in the deficit.  But why take it off the table?  Add it in with other proposals for decreasing spending and it’s just one more tool in the toolbox.

Fact #2. The Obama proposal is called the “Buffett rule” because Warren Buffett, the third richest man in the world, wrote an Op-Ed piece saying that he and his fellow top .3 percenters should be paying more taxes.  No one can deny that Buffett is a successful business man (much more than toupée model Donald Trump).  He points out the huge discrepancy between the percentage he pays in taxes (15%) and what others in his office, not in the top .3%, paid (33-41%).  How is it “Class Warfare” to ask the rich to pay the same tax rate as the not-rich?  Is it because the super-rich are better than the rest of us and thus shouldn’t have to be subjugated to the same standards as the ruffians?  I guess that makes sense, actually.

Also, if one of the most successful businessmen in the history of the world suggests that raising taxes on the super-wealthy would not only not be bad for business but would probably help the economy, doesn’t that strike you as a more reliable voice than the Republicans who argue that any increase in taxes would send American Businesses into free fall and we would enter a new dark age?

Fact #3: Mitch McConnell, Republican Minority Leader of the Senate, said that his party’s “single most important” job was to make sure Obama is a “a one-term president.”  (The original interview is hidden behind a pay wall here).  Does that strike anyone as odd?  The Republican party’s main objective isn’t ensuring the stability of America in troubled times.  It isn’t finding a way to work with the President for bipartisan solutions to our problems.  Hell, it isn’t even protecting us from dem dere Muslim Terroists!  It’s making sure Obama only lasts 4 years.  How is that productive politics?

Granted, you may say, “Well, Obama’s policies are bad for America so we have to get rid of him.”  Okay, except, like with most presidents, the true effects of Obama’s policies won’t really be known for years.  Instead of assuming an Obama failure, shouldn’t a Republican leader’s goal be to find solutions, not just make sure Obama looks bad.  Keep in mind, McConnell said this in fall of 2010.  Obama hadn’t even been in office 2 full years yet.

Also, if McConnell isn’t speaking for his party, how come he’s still their Senate Leader?

Fact #4:  Tax Rates are friggin’ low!  You’ve heard it a million times but I’m saying it again, what we pay now is nothing compared to what people paid in the past.  And business in America boomed during some of the highest taxation periods.  Read all about it.

You know why I don’t mind paying taxes?  Because it means I have a job.  And it means roads are going to get repaired and public transportation is going to run and maybe long-term projects that would ultimately benefit the country will actually get completed.  Saving more money for you and your family sounds noble and honorable, but really it’s just selfish and shortsighted.  Taxes are an investment in the future stability of this country that you’re suppose to love so much (and that your kids are gonna have to live in). 

Yeah, sometimes tax money is misspent, sometimes it goes to projects you don’t support (or wars that I don’t support), but the best way to fix those problems is by electing officials that represent your interests and will ferret out misconduct.  This notion that we need a country without centralized government is asinine.  Here, tell me how you think that’s going to work out.

Fact #5:  Facts don’t mean shit.  The reality is, Obama is not going to win this round, which probably means he isn’t going to win re-election.  I’m disappointed by that fact because I like him and I agree with his policies, but it isn’t going to break my heart.  What really worries me though is that we will probably get a Republican president who has no ideas for how to fix the country because their entire party mantra for 4 years has been, “Stop Obama,” not, “Fix America.”

I hate to break it to you, but increasing taxes is an absolute must.  Bush’s brilliant strategy of fighting two wars while reducing taxes helped put us in a ridiculous deficit.  Surprise, surprise, Obama hasn’t been able to immediately get us out of it.

Look at this graph (from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities):

Bush’s tax cuts alone added more to the deficit than everything Obama has done so far.  Just saying.

You can call me a Liberal Class Warrior if you want, but I think raising taxes on millionaires is just fine.  I think raising taxes on me is just fine.  If it’s going to help out the country, I’ll be okay getting a smaller tax return (because, let’s be honest, I’m pretty close to the poverty line and so I get most of my taxes back each year).

And if you don’t want to “unfairly burden” the “Job Creators,” then tie their tax exemptions to how many people they hire in a year.  If a business hires and retains an employee for at least six months in any given year, then they get a tax write off.  This isn’t my area of expertise, but that seems like a pretty easy way to both maintain the tax level for business and encourage job creation.

I don’t know, I’m no tax expert and certainly not a businessman.  But it seems to me, stupid politics is getting in the way of smart business these days, and the only class that’s being hurt are the ones the Republicans purportedly care so much about.