DOOMSDAY PHOBIA GROWS
As World Awaits December 21, 2012
With Dec. 21, 2012, quickly approaching, people around the world are grappling with doomsday phobia and fears of an impending apocalypse.
Doomsday phobia is a broad category that can encompass any fear of the end of the world. Some people fear plague, others nuclear holocaust, while still other people are afraid of Armageddon. Doomsday phobias are surprisingly common, occurring in some form in virtually every corner of the world.
Friday, Dec. 21 marks the end of the Mayan long-count calendar. On this day,doomsayers believe the world will end. Some fear a wayward planet called “Nibiru,” supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, will collide with the Earth. Others point to a 2012 doomsday in Biblical prophecy, a cataclysm complete with fiery explosions, earthquakes and floods.
Despite the fact that NASA has debunked such apocalyptic theories, many are still worried about the end of the days approaching.
One in 10 people questioned in a worldwide survey said they think the world will end in 2012, according to Yahoo! News’ “Who Knew?”
In China, doomsday seeds were planted when the 3-D version of the 2009 Hollywood disaster film “2012” hit theaters just last month, according to Asia Times.
Stories of doomsday phobia sprouted around the country. A senior engineer and wife of a university professor in Nanjing reportedly cashed in her savings to donate to poor children to make them happy “for the last few days,” Asia Times reported. A carpenter in Chongqing supposedly spent his earnings wining and dining, even though his wife had just given birth. In Xinjiang, a man allegedly spent his family’s savings to build an ark in hopes of survival.
Going to the extreme is not unheard of. In May 2011, when Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted the rapture, some devout followers sold all their possessions to help spread the doomsday message. In 1997, 39 members of theHeaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide in Southern California believing they were called to follow the comet Hale-Bopp, according to Time magazine.
For those with burning questions, NASA created a Google+ hangout on Nov. 28 to answer inquiries and calm worries about apocalyptic theories, noting, “Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, Dec. 21, 2012 won’t be the end of the world as we know, however, it will be another winter solstice.”
A wikiHow has also been created in an attempt to help those with doomsday phobia. The website highlights other supposed “doomsdays” throughout history, suggests having a healthy skepticism about end of days “news” and stop reading into the scaremongering too much.
With the ancient Mayan calendar nearing its end, doomsday phobia is up. About 10 percent of Americans have sort of phobia, from the common fears of spiders and heights to a few more exotic anxieties.
Doomsday 2012: Why Many Chinese Fear the End is Nigh…
If the Mayan calendar is to be believed – or rather, a largely discredited interpretation of it – it’s seven days until the Apocalypse.
What to do? Well, some people in many parts of the world are paying heed. In France, there’s a mountain where people are converging to await the arrival of aliens. In Russia, there’s been a run on essential supplies.
But according a survey conducted for Reuters earlier this year, China ranks highest when it comes to end-of-the-world fears. Some 20 percent of those surveyed expected something to happen on December 21, 2012.
Just this week, my housekeeper, Hou Jinrong, asked me if I think it’s true that the world will end next week.
“I heard that December 21, 2012, when winter comes, I heard it’s the end of the world. If the world still exists, there would be no sunlight. So now people in the countryside, every family is rushing to buy candles and store those candles at home,” Hou said.
She added that that includes her own relatives, back in her village in the central province of Henan. She thinks they’re being a little superstitious – but then again …
“I cannot tell them not to do it, because I don’t know whether it’s true,” she said. “If it’s true, they’ll blame me for that.”
You have to give people points for optimism when they think the end of the world would still leave both them and their family members alive and well, and able to continue to rag on each other.
In China, the concern that everything might come to a skidding halt on December 21 came in part from the movie “2012,” which was a smash hit here.
Watch 2012 movie:
Add that to the mix in a place where rumors and panic have been known to spread quickly, and where social networking turbocharges that process. There have already been more than 60 million posts on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, about next week’s scheduled end of days.
Pang Yen Ting, a 17-year-old high school student in Beijing, says her friends are talking about it, and posting stories about it online.
“They just talk about who do you want to spend the last day with?” she said.
Pang says she wants to spend December 21, with her family – just in case.
Just down the street, a young advertising copywriter named Guan Qiang pauses between drags on his cigarette and looks amused when I ask if he thinks the world will end in eight days.
Barely keeping a straight face, he tells me if CCTV – China’s Central Television – didn’t say so, so it can’t be true.
In other words, if CCTV, the government mouthpiece, isn’t calling the end of the world, move on, have another cigarette.
But Guan admits that even some of his friends – educated, urban, young professionals – are laying in provisions.
“A lot of my friends are talking about it. They say there will be three days when it’s going to be really cold, and people will spend three days in darkness.”
After that, he says, it’ll be okay. There’s that mix of optimism and pragmatism again.
Others in China are making more elaborate preparations; one guy used his life savings to build an ark – like Noah.
My housekeeper, Hou Jinrong, is pretty stoic about the whole thing.
“Who knows what will happen? It might be an earthquake, or tsunami, or volcano eruptions. You may die. You may not die,” Hou said. “When I was young, my mom told me the end of the world is going to be scary. A lot of weird things will happen.”
Or not. I ask Hou if she’s scared of what might happen next week, and she laughs.
“What’s the point of being scared?” she said. “I have to get on with my life.”
Still, she’ll have the candles. Just in case.
Doomsday Phobias in Popular Culture
Since doomsday phobias are relatively common, they are often exploited in popular culture. The best-known example is the 1938 radio broadcast War of the Worlds. This live broadcast claimed to follow an alien invasion that was occurring in New York City. The broadcast was heard across the United States, and a mass panic ensued. Nearly 60 years later, the made for television movie Without Warning, with a similar premise, caused another minor breakout of fear and panic.
Doomsday fears continue to be exploited today. The 2008 Universal Pictures film Doomsdayfocuses on the aftermath of a deadly virus outbreak, preying on our collective fear of unstoppable illness transmission. At Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 2008, a haunted house based on the film will give guests the chance to confront this fear up close.
Doomsday Phobia or Mass Hysteria?
It can be difficult to differentiate a legitimate doomsday phobia from the effects of mass hysteria. “Groupthink” is a documented phenomenon that occurs when members of a group begin to conform to the majority opinion without critically evaluating information for themselves. In a panic situation, this can lead to an evolving hysteria.
However, mass hysteria generally subsides when the feared situation passes. In the above pop culture examples, the panic eased when information was disseminated explaining that the threat was not real.
If you have a legitimate doomsday phobia, it will not be limited to a specific event or situation. Instead your fear will persist. You will become afraid whenever any situation arises that involves your particular phobia. You may find yourself dwelling on the topic of doomsday and going out of your way to seek comfort or protection.
Treating Doomsday Phobia
If you have a doomsday phobia, it is important to seek professional help. The phobia is treatable, but can worsen over time. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular treatment for doomsday phobias. The goal of this type of therapy is to help you replace your fearful self-talk with more positive messages.
If your phobia is severe, you may also be prescribed medications. A variety of medications are used to treat phobias, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines. Your mental health professional will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
- 2012: After the Mayan calendar ends, Hollywood destroys the Earth in 2013 (aworldchaos.wordpress.com)
- Doomsday cultists await ‘end of world’ (bigpondnews.com)
- Mayan apocalypse – China cracks down on doomsday rumours: state media (thenewstribe.com)
- Apocalypse 2012 – How It All Began (shanepedia.wordpress.com)
- 2012 Doomsday: Who’s to Blame? (shanepedia.wordpress.com)
Along with thanks and compliments to the sources for the shared data
The Huffington Post | By Cavan Sieczkowski
PRI’s The World
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