Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sometimes we are dumb.

Mayan culture is alive and well. Over a million people speak Mayan languages, follow its religion and attend to traditional ceremonies. It is not only an ancient culture or an extinct culture. That’s a misconception which goes unchallenged by my last blog. It should have been challenged front and centre.

When, in my last blog, I say “there is no reality picture underlying the Mayan prophecy of the end times” I am not wrong. There really is no model of reality (theology or physics) beneath references to a Mayan end time. Mayans don’t (as far as I can tell) belief in an end time at all. That is a complete fabrication by non-Mayans. It’s a joke; either a joke that betrays western ignorance of other cultures (and obsession with the end times) or it’s a joke about western ignorance of other cultures. Unfortunately I think it’s the former more than the latter.

I should have pointed out that there is a Mayan reality picture. It has been spectacularly disregarded in discussions about a “Mayan end of the world prophecy” sometimes just called the “Mayan prophecy”. That’s something I’m making a new years resolution to correct in the new year. I’m going to write a post on Mayan beliefs after giving them a decent research and consideration.

I ask other bloggers, who wrote about the Mayan end times without referencing what Mayans actually believe, to make the same commitment.

Why does this matter? Why is this the right thing to do? The answer is in how atheists, agnostics, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and so on feel when people blithely misinterpret their own beliefs for a laugh. That’s especially both dumb and boring when the laugh has that smug tone of superiority.

I've had the great pleasure of seeing a small Australian production called Outland. It was a tv series about a gay and lesbian science fiction fan club. In the first episode there were repeated jokes by a non-member of the group that “the Daleks are defeated by stairs.”

Eventually the group snapped and explained in perfect nerdy fashion that the Daleks (from Dr. Who) had answers to stairs all throughout the shows history. This obscure example is just to show that even outside religion we can know how condescension works and how it rarely bothers to know much about what its’ condescending to. Geeks and freaks of all kinds - cosplayers to metalheads, gamers to Goths - know what I’m talking about. Others scoff at what they're into without bothering to learn much of it. It’s exactly that superficial dismissal of philosophies other than our own that I have always wanted this blog to be different from.

(I find Wikipedia to be an excellent starting point to my own research. They have a great entry on Mayan civilization. Once you’ve read it why not make a small donation to Wikipedia too. It’s a non-profit public resource, that beats relying on parochial blogs like mine or you tube for our information.)

I’m suffering from “end-times” fatigue. I am grateful that it seems to have driven inane conversation in a different direction to the usual “war on Christmas” tripe in the week before that day. At least I thought so until I read this article. My prophecy is that after today when the Mayan Calendar ends we can expect a rush of discussion on the “War on Christmas” as our media-soaked brains flit like butterflies onto the next colourful and shallow understanding of the world around us.

Do I sound a little despondent? I am.

An increasingly popular driver of theological and faith based discussion is a site called . The way that site divides people into “channels” promotes a defensiveness and hostility between perspectives (Progressive, Evangelical, Atheist, etc.). It's just boring. It promotes a way of thinking that turns any discussion into the gathering and throwing of ammunition at “the other side”. That’s another approach to discussion this blog is intended to oppose.

Fortunately when I turn off the internet things don’t look so grimly oppositional at all. An atheist friend of mine recently invited her friends to an ageing churches carols in the hope of spreading and reveling in some Christmas cheer. Christian friends of mine having heard that I had encountered some homophobia from Christians personally expressed their hope it wasn’t from their church which I’d attended (which it wasn’t and I had a great time there). This holiday season people of all faiths and none are going to try and have a good time at least and in our best will be helping others less fortunate. There is a common front emerging against the commercialism of the season from a broad spectrum of people.

I’ve also just discovered an amazing artist whose politics is astounding. He is known as Immortal Technique.  Check him out if you want to see how a man can point his anger intelligently at the right targets and use his anger peacefully.

Maybe our cultures anticipation of the world ending for one reason after another is really an expression of our despair at the level of crap we see around us. That crap seems to be coating our internet (with the exception of Wikipedia). Off the web the world looks a lot healthier. It has horrible problems, but it has people involved in solutions as well.

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