Apocalypse, as a vernacular term, originated from the Greek term "apocalypsis," which literally means “uncovering,” in the sense of revealing something. Until Hollywood filled our heads with images of tidal waves and meteors, the term was popularized through its Biblical use. This use carried a connotation that was subtler: The apocalypse referred to the uncovering of meaning or understanding hidden from mankind in a time or atmosphere dominated by falsehood and misconception.
Without even worrying about the Mayan calendar, the words of Nostradamus, the prophetic dreams of Daniel or the revelation made to John, I have taken the definition to heart and concluded that we have experienced the apocalypse. To say that we have spent the past decade or so in an atmosphere of falsehood and misconception doesn’t seem too farfetched. The numerous banking scandals and financial collapses; the extreme polarization and ethical scandals of politicians; the widespread rioting and protesting of people who feel betrayed and unrepresented by their leaders. Indeed, people the world over have been plagued by the consequence of an era governed by falsehoods and misconceptions.
2012 seems to be the year that many of those issues came to a head. A previously hidden (or perhaps just ignored) understanding that the derivation of the London Interbank Offered Rate is a vastly outdated method, based on a time when banks borrowed primarily from each other; that a unified European currency may have been a bad idea; that lending practices and calculation of risk have become too far removed from the consequences of their failure; and, most importantly, that the electorate, or even those citizens and residents denied the right to vote, will respond. The people of the world, from Syria to Oakland, have made their voices heard; from Occupy to the Arab Spring, even those who were previously disenfranchised, have stopped hiding their discontent and have brought about a vast reconsideration of the systems and forces governing our world.
To me, those are events of apocalyptic significance. I suppose much of that, though, is contingent on what we make of it all moving forward. When the Mayans made their now famous calendar, the end signified not that they had run out of space (thank you, Triangle), but that an apocalyptic cycle was coming to an end and that the future, the time beyond that date, would be a new world age. For John, too, the prophecy of an apocalypse was accompanied by transition from one age to another, the angels told him that the fall of Babylon — a city of sin, falsehoods and misconceptions of the good life — would be followed by the rise of a new Jerusalem. If we give the due significance to the events of 2012 and allow our eyes to be opened to the falsehoods and misconceptions that have directed many of our actions over the past decade; if we act upon the revelations of the past year and move into a new era, then we can say 2012 was the year of the apocalypse but also the year we collectively pulled our head out of the sand and began to fix and rebuild the systems we broke.
To take an optimistic stance, I’m going to label 2012 an apocalyptic year. Revelations were made, understandings uncovered and the conversations for “What now?” have started.
Perhaps it’s too generous to understand the apocalypse as the shifting of attitudes and understandings, or an awakening to the state of the world with far less fanfare and destruction than Nostradamus or John’s angels describe. So maybe there’s no role for Will Smith in the movie adaptation of 2012. But understanding the apocalypse this way transforms a wholly unrealistic concept into something not just possible, but meaningful.
Lily Alberts is an economics major from Nashville, Tenn. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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