Well, December 21, 2012 came and went and we are still here. Did the world end? It did for some people. It does every day. We all face an inevitable end. But the end of an individual life lacks the drama of the anticipated end of everything.
Still, worlds are ending all around us. I think the Maya world is one of those. The Maya Indians have been incredibly resilient, retaining and maintaining their culture over the past five hundred years through war, devastation, death, and disease. An invasion of language, culture, and religion brought from across the Atlantic threatened a way of life with an almost irresistible force. But the Maya stood fast. They maintained their language, they retained their calendar at least in a rudimentary form with holy days and celebrations. They kept their families close, used traditional and symbolically significant forms of dress. They lived off the land, land that had belonged to them and supported their ancestors as far back as their oldest grandparents could remember.
Even in the disruption of the thirty plus year Guatemalan Civil War, the Maya stood fast. But with forced removal from the land and forced changes in the traditional system of local governance, with younger men placed in positions of authority over the experienced and deserving elders cracks began to form.
Economic necessity added to the mix. There had always been economic necessity, but without ancestral lands, subsistence was harder to find. Mayas joined the move North. Maya Indians working in low paying jobs in San Francisco, California find themselves victims of predators, find their children victims of gang members and sometimes find their children have joined gangs. Seeking justice in an unfamiliar system, a world away from home, the Maya ask for Mayan speaking translators in the courts.
Young men, arrested in California for gang activity and sent back to the Yucatan bring gang membership home to the Maya world. Order gives way to chaos in the lowlands. And in the Guatemalan Highlands the same pattern breaks apart tradition, respect, and religion.
But, even before the gangs had reached their tentacles into the remotest areas, another enemy was introduced into isolated villages. Television had to wait for satellites to reach villagers who had hardly seen electricity. But when television arrived it arrived in power. TV brought a foreign world into the home of every family, and that world in many cases supplanted the traditions, ritual, and values of the family who had invited it in, killing it from within the heart of the home.
Want to see the end of a world? Look around. December 21, 2012 may have been it. Maybe all we see now are the leftovers, living on, not yet aware that all is lost.
Tune in to Housewives of New Jersey, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Two and a Half Men. And don’t even get me started on video games or pornography.
I can’t find my world in those boxes. Heaven Help Us.