Thursday, 20 December 2012

Hardly the End of the World

It looks like the much hyped end of the world didn't happen today Hong Kong time.

As far as I can tell it's pretty much business as usual.

Many believed December 21 was the end of the Mayan calendar and a number of people in China bought into it. There was a prediction that on Friday the world would descend into three days of complete darkness because the sun, moon and stars would suddenly be extinguished. This rumour led to many residents in Sichuan to buy candles and timber -- so much so that it resulted in a candle shortage in the province.

The panic led to the emergence of Doomsday groups who were trying to spread the word about the end of the world, but one group in particular believed that it also marked the end of the Great Red Dragon, a euphemism for the Communist Party of China.

That of course alarmed the regime so much that the authorities arrested over 800 people associated with the Church of Almighty God sect, branding the group as "an evil cult" for claiming that God had returned to earth as a woman and adopted the Doomsday legend.

In a public notice, provincial security officials described Almighty God as a criminal gang responsible for spreading social panic, preaching heresies and breaking up families. "It is a social cancer and a plague on humankind," it said.

Sounds like language they have also used to describe the Falun Gong...

Anyway we are also amused to see how some Chinese have capitalized on the Doomsday prediction by selling survival kits and even space in a cataclysm-proof sphere made of fibreglass that has enough supplies for nine people to last a few months.

There are other companies that are more light hearted in offering their employees a Doomsday "vacation" day. Perhaps it's a nice gesture to allow staff to enjoy their last day on earth not in the office.

And in Hong Kong, Aqua Restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui was trying to make money out of the scare over the end of the world by offering a lavish six-course dinner for HK$2,112.12 per person. Why not eat to the end in style?

Nevertheless, the hype has an upside.

Feng shui master James Lee Shing-chak says December 21 is a particularly auspicious day.

"It is a day with an abundance of sun and rainwater to nourish the earth, which means farmers see it as a good day for yielding harvests, and couples see today as a good day to get married on," he said.

Which is why 119 couples got married in Hong Kong today, but it's about the average for a Friday according to the Immigration Department.

So who misinterpreted the Mayan calendar that began in 3,114 BC?

The fact that the Chinese authorities arrested so many people connected with the Almighty God sect and there could be many other followers of other sects that also promote the Doomsday theme clearly illustrates the Party's lack of transparency which leads to others having wild imaginations. The government also doesn't promote critical thinking in its people, thus leading to them believing in almost anything they hear or read.

So in a way it's the government's own fault for the emergence of these bogus groups. People are looking for some kind of spiritual guidance and find nothing from the Party. And so they turn to other religions, but because of their inability to discern right from wrong, some are led astray into weird sects that are irrational.

But then again if they survive to December 22 they may wonder why there wasn't an end to the world.

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