Well, it’s almost here. The Great Day. The Last Page. Yup, the Mayan calendar is supposed to run out, what, tonight? Tomorrow? Yes, all the prophets are lined up in their pointy hats, and all the Doomsday preppers are checking their larders to see if maybe they should add another case of beef jerky or, more important, buy a couple more rifles/shotguns/mortars/bazookas. Well, they are part of a long, long tradition. Making book on the end of the world has been around about as long as it took OG, the stoneager, to figure out that some of his fellow cave dwellers weren’t too smart, and that he could make his own life a lot easier by off-loading some of his work onto them, while he entered Dream Time and communed with the Spirit of the Lion, Antelope or whatever spirits happened to be around and feel like talking, or ‘talking’, since I can’t imagine real spirits just sitting around someplace and gassing, like a bunch of geezers in front of some pot-bellied stove. The Economist has a story and also a very nice chart detailing several of the major apocalyptic movements and prophets, most of whom didn’t last too long. If you give too-detailed predicitions about The End, and it doesn’t happen, that sort of shakes your credibility. Fortunately, though, most of the Flock will still swallow some ‘re-interpretation’ of the Message, so you’ll probably be OK. Way back in the Middle Ages, quite a few such movements got started, and stopped, because the authorities were very unhappy about crowds of folk moving around the countryside yelling about this or that. The medieval states were what the Poli Sci crowd calls ‘weak states’. There was a limit to what authority could do, and uprisings had to be dealt with swiftly or they could make real trouble. The ‘strong’ states of today are more tolerant but not all of them. China, for example, is really anxious about one Christian sect that claims Christ has returned in the form of a woman and is in hiding in China, and the end is just around the corner. Since much of the Chinese leadership’s working day is taken up with ensuring ‘stability’, meaning that everybody is supposed to be working and not asking inconvenient questions, any kind of millennialist preaching is upsetting. Many Chinese saw the movie 2012 and too many started taking it seriously. But, a buck’s a buck and the more entrepreneurial are relieving their fellows of rather large sums on what looks very much like DoomsDay Prepping in the Middle Kingdom: ball-shaped pods that float, houseboats that will rise in the flood, beef jerkey, and all the rest of the necessities. Hey, they’re gonna buy it from somebody, so they might as well buy it from me. The group in question plays pretty rough. Some observers call it a racket, pure and simple. The gummint doesn’t like some of the preaching either, which describes the fall of the the Great Red Dragon. Hmmmmm…..I wonder what they’re talking about. They won’t be the first or the last to talk themelves into a long stretch behind barbed wire out west in the Gobi desert someplace.