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The Mayan apocalypse: why is everyone in such a fever about it?
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 17:12

Well, if the world really is coming to an end on Friday 21 December, you can see their point. On the other hand, there seem to be a few people trying to make money out of impending doom

Age: As old as idiocy itself.

Appearance: Back-garden bunkers, tinned food and, eventually, embarrassment.

Is this about Friday? It is indeed. Specifically, the moment on Friday when the whole world comes to a fiery, watery or in some other way unpleasant and cataclysmic end.

As predicted by the Mayans? Actually, as predicted by absolutely no Mayan prophecies ever, but by quite a few very silly people who aren't aware that when a calendar comes to an end – even an ancient Mayan one – you just need to pop out and buy a new calendar.

And they've gone feverish in anticipation? You could say that. In fact, you could say a mile-high tidal wave of apocalypse fever is sweeping across the planet as we speak.

Could you really? Of course. But it would be a massive overexaggeration. In reality, at best, it's lapping at the knees of a paddling toddler on a beach in Dorset.

So what is apocalypse fever, then? Just a few bulging pockets of apocalyptic stupidity.

Such as? Such as in Chechnya and various other parts of Russia, where politicians are calling for calm after superstitious citizens started panic-buying candles, torches, salt and matches.

Because the apocalypse will be dark and need a bit of seasoning? Presumably.

And where else? In China, where alongside a rush on candles there has been a healthy dose of doomsday profiteering. Dedicated websites are selling gas masks and tinned food, and one Chinese furniture-maker has been hawking a range of hand-built glass-fibre survival pods for around £30,000 a pop.

And are Chinese politicians reassuring people? Not exactly, no. Their approach has been to arrest people caught spreading apocalyptic rumours.

Really? Yup. As of Monday, 93 people had been detained across seven provinces.

Just for spreading rumours? Well, that and trying to make a quick buck; police arrested six people in the province of Fujian for selling red paper circles imbued with apocalypse-proofed charms.

Apocalypse-proofed charms? Yep. To be fair, they've got a 100% success rate so far.

Don't say: "One apocalypse-resistant paper circle, please."

Do say: "I've got a matchbox and a bag of salt. So bring it on."

• This article was amended on 18 December 2012. The original picture showed an Aztec stone calendar; the caption, as supplied by the picture agency, indicated that this was a Mayan calendar. This has been corrected.

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