Many have been drawn by the Mayan calendar ending this December, with the more sensational commentary reducing this to a possible physical end of the world. Yet the very definition of world need not refer to our physical habitation. There is the other use of the term, which means the human world, the one we make and maintain, though once we live in it, a place that seems just as slid and unchangeable as our natural environment. Yet as we all know, this world can and does change, evolving as we do, after all it is we ourselves who build and maintain it.
In this sense the Mayans may be seen to have a remarkable intuitive wisdom, as that world, as we know it, in the process of a very deep transformation, which is experiencing sudden shifts as we speak. Just staying for the moment with the well-publicised world events that are covered by international media, there has been a revolution of sorts just in this year. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has gained momentum and though the final political-social arrangements are still unclear, we can hope that liberal democracy rises above the temptation to retreat into an ethnocentric, ‘Islamic’ set of dictatorships not too different from what went before.
Meanwhile, the American right-wing, stung by a crushing defeat in the presidential elections, may well never again field a candidate with some of the horrifically prejudiced policies offered. The possibility of an increasingly optimistic and liberal-minded America is increasingly likely. Gay marriage and other civil liberties seem to be receiving more support than ever before and with them a civil-rights oriented ethos we haven’t seen for some time.
Seeing the world more broadly in time, the last few decades have given us a more united Europe ever less likely to erupt in war, the end of the cold war with Russia and the gradual opening up of China, with only a few states such as North Korea still in a state of ideological antagonism with Western democracy. The world may well not be entirely safe, but it does indeed seem safer from such possibilities of total destruction as offered by the cold war’s nuclear stand-off.
Of all of this is interpretation, analysis and possibly just wishful thinking, one can feel a certain hope in the air. That the cruel ages of man, with all their prejudice, exploitation and even slavery are giving way to a more enlightened age, where the rights and value of the individual are held in high regard and the world itself, freed from poisonous extremes of hatred, is a safer place to dwell in. Such a process may well take time and even generations of effort, education and the will to make a better, fairer and kinder world. One can smell catch a whiff of its fragrance in the air, though… Such a kinder world is coming, as we ourselves will soon settle for nothing less, as we evolve within, so will the world we collectively make reflect this.