Good riddance to bad company. We’re almost through with January, and I feel comfortable saying, from the embankments of a new year, that things are better than they were in 2012.
I cannot speak to the quality of your previous year. Hopefully, it was excellent! But I have not met anyone who had terribly positive things to say about the year. Every person whose brain I’ve picked has their own reasons: family issues, school issues, personal issues and so on. Yet we do not live in isolation, and to the ends of understanding I’d like to consider a few societal grotesqueries.
Before proceeding any further, let us remember those who died in any one of the multiple highly-publicized shootings that took place this year. There is nothing amusing or tongue-in-cheek to say. The deaths are miserable, and that is all that needs to be said.
Secondly, I think it’s worth noting that the election was hard on everyone, particularly because the whole thing really was up for grabs.
The race was something from “The Simpsons:” less a real challenge between powerful statesmen and more a staring match between slow, pragmatic individuals hesitant to express anything that might resemble a legitimate political position.
Now we get to what I think is the prime instance of the past year’s Zeitgeist. When you are telling your next-of-kin about the world in your younger years, I hope you will mention the “2012 Apocalypse.” The gist, as I’m sure you know, is that a “scholar” proposed that the Mayan long count calendar suggested some sort of cataclysm to occur late last year.
We are a thoroughly postmodern society. The notion that the world would end because a distinctly exoticized society’s calendar can be interpreted as such is met with curious stares, hearty laughs and a feature film starring John Cusack.
Emory had a week of events whose unifying theme was the apocalypse. I suspect that more than a few of us welcomed in Dec. 22 with the beginnings of a hangover and a sarcastic “Glad we made it!”
All good fun, sure, but we are not so lost to postmodernity that we do not fall into memetic fears, and it is the Apocalypse phenomenon that I consider 2012’s most significant motif. History is rich with instances of mass apocalyptic paranoia, and this was our turn at bat.
The 2012 Apocalypse phenomenon revealed, in my interpretation, a social unease. It was a period when the air was thick with fear but also with a gleeful eagerness for catastrophe. Then, at least, the table is cleared. The Apocalypse phenomenon is rich with the idea that people were just desirous of something new. Instead of a constant suspicion of something lurking beneath the surface, of a suspicion that “the Government” really is becoming a surveillance state, of a suspicion that the environment is irreparably destroyed, there could be a single great horror that removes all ambiguity from humanity’s situation. Conflicts of ideology of states and people are complex and uncertain.
But decimation reveals that, at least, there could be a renewal. For an obsession with death is the inverse reaction to stunted regeneration.
And there is the key. At the risk of universalizing the experiences of my peers and a few stray observations, I feel that 2012 felt like one great hiccup. Some amazing scientific achievements aside, the whole of the year seemed directionless. Forgive my naivety, but we are living in the capital-F “Future!” And we have found it unimpressive. The election, the horrific violence and the apocalyptic fears are both a part of and a product of this situation.
Times for reflection are appropriate, of course, but let us now look towards this year as one of opportunity and of renewal. Let us attack this with vigor and an unending supply of optimistic joy. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Rhett Henry is a College sophomore from Lawrenceville, Ga.