For those of you who didn’t notice, the end of the world came and went on November 14th. It also ended on November 24th, and is set to do so at the end of this year. If you’ve got a Christmas trip to Los Angeles planned, don’t bother going — a massive earthquake wiped out the city of the Angels as well as neighbouring San Diego at 7pm on May 8th.

Are you wondering why you haven’t heard about any of these earth-shattering events? It’s because they were all predictions made by psychics, fundamentalists and other people apparently keen to see more misery and destruction in the world than already exists.

Yes folks, we’re gearing up for the end of the decade, the end of the century, the end of the millennium and — according to assorted doomsayers — the end of the world. Some have it ending rather neatly on New Year’s Day, the year 2000, while others are predicting all manner of wars, earthquakes, famines and increasingly decadent behaviour in the run-up to the big 2000.

There’s going to be a massive millenniarist industry build up. While one half of the population will be getting ready for the Mother of All New Year Parties, the other half will be getting ready for Armageddon. So what’s all the fuss about?

Well, I’m not worried about Nostradamus predicting the Gulf War as the start of the Apocalypse. I’m not worried about the European Community being the Beast of the Book of Revelations. I’m not worried about the Rapture picking up my friends and relations and whisking them away to Heaven while the rest of us perish in a global nuclear war.

What I do worry about is the associated fear, paranoia, gullibility and stupidity that inevitably accompanies such predictions.

I worry about the ominously named Ukrainian White Brotherhood who have caused riots and bloodshed in an already shaky nation. Their end of the world — the one predicted for November 14th — didn’t arrive, but that didn’t deter them from trying again with another date.

I feel sorry for the believers who sold up their businesses and their homes in preparation for the end of the world predicted by a Korean fraudster. There were people in New Zealand drawn into that fatalistic vision. Fortunately, unlike a number of other apocalyptic visionaries, the prophet in this case didn’t enjoin his followers to bring their world to a real end by mass suicide.

I worry about the people who end up with impoverished wallets and impoverished minds buying yet another book purporting to be the last word in interpreting the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus.

I worry about having a Cabinet Minister confidently asserting that the Bible tells us we’re going to have more earthquakes, and saying this the same month that two government seismologists lose their jobs.

I’m concerned about the fundamentalists who see the hand of Satan everywhere, most particularly at work in our child care centres. With the end-time coming, they say, a worldwide conspiracy of Satanists is preparing for the ultimate showdown by abusing, sacrificing and eating toddlers at your local crech

I worry about all these various apocalyptic views because I know that we will be seeing more and more of them as that crucial year 2000 approaches. And I know that the fear, paranoia and hysteria they engender will increase — we’re not so far removed from our ancestors who, on facing the turn of the first millennium, held their own riots, witch-hunts and death-watches. There’s something in human nature which seems to love a good doomsday scenario.

So don’t panic folks. Next time you hear a doomsday prediction, make a note of it — it means you can always laugh about it afterwards.

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