, Salem, MA

December 19, 2012

Our view: The cliff or the calendar

The Salem News

---- — What’s worse — the fiscal cliff or the end of the Mayan calendar?

This holiday season, we’ll get to experience both — or at least we hope we will. And if the stress of last-minute holiday shopping wasn’t bad enough already...

Dec. 21 is the last day on the Mayan calendar. It’s perceived in various circles as the end time, a day on which a cataclysmic event will end human civilization as we know it. It’s interesting to see how seriously this drop-dead date is being taken in various circles.

Sales of survival-related equipment are reported to be increasing. Websites have sprung up with predictions and information on what to expect. Even NASA has weighed in, reporting earlier this month that its extensive monitoring system has detected no meteors or asteroids on a collision course with earth. So NASA says we’ll be all right, or at least the skies will be clear.

That leads us to the second cataclysmic event.

The fiscal cliff, as we all know, is a real and manmade event set to spring Jan. 1. It marks the day on which the federal government will take certain mandatory actions to balance its enormous deficit. Tax breaks that we have gotten comfortable with will evaporate, and numerous federal programs will be cut drastically.

This cataclysm can be avoided if our nation’s leaders come to an agreement on a deficit plan. Thus far, swords have been rattled but no compromise is on the table. If we do fall off the fiscal cliff, there will be no fire raining from the sky, but our 401k accounts may end up as smoldering ruins.

Whether we believe in the Mayan calendar’s end time or not, it’s impossible to escape the notion that our modern society is still inextricably tied to our ancient instincts. For millennia, the date that we now know as Dec. 21 has been one of the most important for mankind. It marks the winter solstice, the day on which the sun has the shortest appearance in the northern hemisphere. From that day forth, the days grow longer. The importance of this day to mankind’s day-to-day existence is clearly shown by the magnificent feats of engineering undertaken to mark it, such as Stonehenge, and the many festivals and religious events at this time of the year that have been passed down to us.

We hope our leaders avoid the fiscal cliff. As for the calendar, we’ll stick with those who believe the Mayans figured they’d be around in 2012 to update it.