Why 2012?

With the subject line “2012,” Wendy Bradley wrote, regarding our present series on the subject:

What a waste of time, attention, and resources.

How come?


I suppose she’s got a point. 2012 is a terrible movie, and the whole phenomenon is more than a bit ridiculous. But maybe I can explain a little bit about why it has come to fascinate me and seem worthy of some prolonged attention.

This past summer, I spent a month traveling in Costa Rica with a photographer, searching out expats who had moved there to live radically new and different lives. We found a remarkable number of people doing so, people from the great cities of the United States who decided to subsist close to the land, often in the name of taking seriously the social and environmental crises that we all know about but so few do much of anything to avert. Among these unusually passionate people, 2012 was a powerful concern. Unlike Roland Emmerich, many of them saw the date as marking something positive, an upward shift in “consciousness,” which may or may not be accompanied by a breakdown in technological, technocratic society as it presently exists.

That is to say, whether true or not, I was impressed by the power of the 2012 mythology (and memes like it) to help motivate unusual and often quite remarkable behavior. Upon returning, and upon learning about the movie which has just come out, I was eager to use the opportunity to learn more about the 2012 phenomenon myself by encouraging our talented KtB contributors to explore it. A bit of a selfish undertaking, to be sure, but I think it will be of some value to others as well.

Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.