Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why the world might actually end in 2012: Seinfeld, Schemas and Mayan Prophecies

Back in their heyday the Mayans threw out this wild “tupac-is-still-alive” type prophecy that the world would meet its apocalypse on December 21, 2012. And though end-of-world prophecies seldom come true, given our incredible ability as humans to misattribute, I’m thinking that come 2012 the average roster of unfortunate events might snowball into a self-fulfilling Judgement Day.

But Arnold can’t help us this time, because the 2012 apocalypse has everything to do instead with Jerry and George sitting in the coffee shop pretending to be gay lovers for the benefit of an eavesdropping NYU reporter.

In this one episode (youtube), after hearing Jerry and George feigning gay, an NYU reporter takes on the belief that two are a thing. This misconception leads her to wrongly interpret Jerry and George’s later which could really have gone either way as the banter of a loving partnership. Cyclically, her misattributions only reinforce her initial beliefs that Jerry and George are a couple – comedy obviously ensues. Psychologists refer to the NYU reporter’s preconceptions, which informed her subsequent interpretations as a schema – and it’s the damn schemas that are gonna fuck us up in 2012.

Though we likely don’t believe in the Mayan prediction – the only thing I’ve ever believed about 2012 is that it made for an awful movie – we are all certainly aware of it. Because we have heard about it, we will in 2012 have an inkling of a world-end schema, a schema embryo. Others, the apocalypse groupies like the ones in Independence Day that got lasered on top of that skyskcraper, will round out the spectrum with full-blown, third trimester schemas. And so, just as the NYU reporter’s belief/awareness caused her to interpret George sayin “Jerry, is this pear washed?” as the question of a gay man, our awareness of the idea that the world might end might cause us to interpret e’eryday bad events as apocalypse forbearers – a misperception that would inevitably cause us to blow ourselves up: Romeo + Juliet style.

Because here’s the thing: bad things happen every year. Some years are worse than others, some decades extra shitty, but all years are within a couple of standard deviations from the mean of shittyness.

So in 2012, North Korea will invade Seoul; the bee populations in California will continue to dwindle; earthquakes and hurricanes’ll hit South East Asia; the Dodgers will win the pennant; Sarah Palin will win the presidency.

And while all definitely bad things, these are bad things that could happen any year.

But maybe in 2012 we won’t see it like that – maybe we will misinterpret the events as pieces of the apocalypse, and think that Jerry and George are gay afterall. And if our schemas reinforce, and our misinterpretation gets strong enough – if our belief that the world might actually end becomes the conventional wisdom, would the mass hysteria reach the tipping point necessary for self-fulfillment?

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