The Last Time the World was Supposed to End

A Y2K bunker. Although it doesn’t look like this one was very well-supplied.

So we survived yet another supposed apocalypse.You know, I have never been able to take threats of the end of the world very seriously.  I suppose it’s due to the fact that in recent year, the talk of the end of days has come from the extreme type, those whose religious views are so out there that they may as well be something out of a bad movie about a cult.  I suppose our popular culture hasn’t helped either.  Turn on your average cable channel these days and while you surf through the low- class sideshow it has become (seriously, this is what I begged my parents for when I was a teenager?) you will more than likely come across a History Channel special where faux academics are interviewed about the vague statements made by someone before the flushable toilet was invented, or stuff like Doomsday Preppers.

I am not sure if the shows like these glorify these idiots or ridicule them.  It seems like the fringe is more in the spotlight than they ever were, but it is hard to consider them “legitimate” because there really aren’t any threats anymore.  It’s not like it’s 1962 anymore and we’re all building bombs shelters in our backyards because we are all scared of the bomb.  As advanced as I guess the Mayans seemed, it was an ancient prophecy that seemed as unlikely as the prediction made last year by some dipwad who claimed that The Rapture was upon us (although I always thought The Rapture was not really in the book of Revelation, and instead was manufactured by someone who wanted followers to give him money).  Besides, I had already become skeptical of apocalypse predictions years ago when Y2K didn’t happen.

Now, I’ m sure that most people who may read this remember what Y2K was, but its prominence as a threat to our society seems to have faded over time, becoming a footnote at least or the answer to a trivia question at best.  In fact, the sophomores I teach had no idea what I was talking about when we were talking about the Mayan Apocalypse during some down time on the last day of classes before Christmas break.  So, if you don’t know or don’t remember, Y2K was basically a widespread computer glitch that was going to destroy us all.  The problem, basically, was that most co.puters were programmed with internal clocks that only displayed years with two digits.  So, 1999 was simply 99.  And on January 1, 2000, these computers would all display “00,” and since they didn’t know the difference between centuries, the computers would think it was not 2000, but 1900, and would shut down or something.

I first learned about it in Time when I came  across the article “The End of the World As We Know It,” a title I suppose the magazine’s editors probably thought was hip but was really groan-worthy.  Anyway, I had come across the article when I was in the Honors Program study lounge at Loyola, intending to do what everyone who went to the lounge always did, which was nap on the couch.  Instead I got sucked into the story of the the Eckhart family of rural Ohio, who were among a population of very religious people who were convinced that it was the End of Days and had started to stockpile all sorts of supplies,including weapons, for the coming doom.  They had even gone as far as to make bunkers, just like it was the Cuban Missile Crisis all over again.  I was a typically self-absorbed college senior whose two major concerns were writing my weekly column in the student paper, and having the gas money to get to my girlfriend’s house on Friday night.  Besides, I was set to graduate in May and only pulling 12 credits that semester, so I really didn’t give a crap.

Okay, that’s not entirely true,because I did run a Y2K compliance check on my computer (because my PC was so decrepit at that point that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had exploded that January 1), and I had seen enough science fiction to wonder if it could really happen.  But really, I just went about my business. (more…)