There is, of course, the fact that the Mayan Calendar ends on December 12, 2012 – a fact widely popularized by innumerable movies about the end of the World. Do I believe it to be truth? No, but I do believe that whenever the “doomsday thinking” is around, is because of other realities. Whenever people feel that their own personal world is in jeopardy, their sense of insecurity will lead them to see their feelings reflected in an “End of the World” scenario. The last few years brought with them job insecurity, financial downturn, economic contraction, increase in terrorism and lack of personal safety; it is therefore natural that many people would feel that their own personal world of expectations and dreams is threatened, and that makes the “end of the world” theories very marketable because they speak to that sense of insecurity even when the people themselves probably do not believe in those theories.
So what is it that makes our world so insecure? - of course the economy, and also the economy. Beyond the economy, we look at today's world and we see that the inmates are literally taking over the asylum; political groups advocating extreme exclusionary ideas are gaining traction in many parts of the world, from the extreme Salafi and Wahhabi forms of Islam to the neo-Nazi movements in Europe and the United States. When these kind of ideologies take over, the possibility of being ourselves even if we are in a minority, is drastically limited and we are looking down the road to a significant loss of personal freedoms.
In a way, also the “Occupy Movement” is shaking our world. This movement is the expression of the frustration and disappointment of a growing segment of the American population who feels betrayed by a system that is not delivering on the promises they grew up with.
There is, of course, the fact that some dictators with delusions of greatness either have access or soon will have access to Nuclear weapons, thus putting many in their respective neighborhoods under an umbrella of death. Think Iran and North Korea.
There is a longer list of points to make about why we might feel insecure and it would indeed be a litany, but there are also some positive things. Let me tell you a story...
One day, it is said that God gets tired of Humanity and decides to exterminate the Human race with another Flood in two weeks time. In order to allow people to prepare God calls the leaders of some of the religious groups to an audience to tell them of the decision. So a Catholic Priest, a Protestant Minister and a Rabbi get called for the Audience along with others. God tells all of those assembled of the intention to bring about a Flood as a response to Humanity's wickedness and send them back to Earth to help their coreligionists to prepare.
The Catholic Priest faces his congregation and tells them that because as Humans we have not atoned enough for our sins, God has decided to bring about another Flood, and we can only accept our fate and accept our “mea culpa” for the next two weeks before the end.
The Protestant Minister faces his congregation and tells them that because we have not loved each other or God enough, we have failed to be redeemed and God will destroy the world in two weeks. So Christians must use these last two weeks to love each other and help each other during this time of trial.
The Rabbi faces his congregation and tells them that he had an Audience with God, who told him that a Flood will destroy the world in two weeks, therefore we have exactly two weeks to learn how to breath under water.
The story illustrates the eternal hope that as Jews we always cling to. In the worst of situations, we always believe there is a way out and we keep trying. So in spite of the economic problems, in spite of the dictators with Nuclear weapons, in spite of the sense of despair that seems to be taking over much of the world, we need to look forward with a sense of optimism and hope because in any difficult situation there is an opportunity to change the world, and that is what we do...Tikkun Olam.
In 2012, let us rededicate ourselves to seek peace, to help our fellow Jews and fellow Americans, to find ways to stop the craziness that seems to be growing around us. In short, let us rededicate ourselves to build a better, more peaceful, more secure world.