Why 2012 Predictions are Really Stupid

05/25/2011 01:00 pm ET

It happened again last week: at a business meeting here in Sonoma County, an otherwise intelligent, creative professional started talking about how we are in for big changes in the year 2012. I did what I always do, which is to make sure my face didn't betray my utter contempt for such nonsense.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is useful to understand how climate change, peak oil, meteors, and economic collapse might affect life as we know it. I support public policy that addresses the most pressing issues in practical, forward-thinking ways. But I refuse to buy into any doomsday scenario or enlightenment fantasy that says we need an evolutionary shift to save humanity. The only evolutionary shift we really need is for people to learn how to think clearly, act responsibly, and stop believing everything Daniel Pinchbeck says.

Maybe a life spent in California has made me cynical. But having endured the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Harmonic Convergence, the Oral Roberts Death Watch, Y2K and Bush v. Gore without having any major appliances explode or noticing any Rapture-like behavior, I simply cannot believe that in three years the Mayan calendar will fall off a shelf and change the world as we know it. They couldn't even predict their own demise, for heaven's sake. Aren't we grasping at straws here?

People have always needed their drugs. And while Karl Marx may have been right about the 19th century, I think in the 21st century it is not religion but the fuzzy logic of paradigm shifts that are the opiate of the masses.

Our reliance on these myths is important to acknowledge, because we now have a window of time in which we can make actual changes in the trajectory of our society. Regulate the financial industry. Adopt new energy policies. Reverse some environmental destruction, restore the Constitution, improve failing infrastructure. All of these goals are urgent, and none will be helped if we allow sloppy thinking to guide our decision-making.

It seems pretty clear to me that the marketing of 2012 fantasies is the Mother's Little Helper of the aughts. And who doesn't need a little help some days? But we can't let our personal beliefs, whatever they may be, prevent us from seeing things as they are. Life is hard in many places on the planet, changes occur every day, and somehow we will get through it all. I don't need a doomsday prediction, a conspiracy theory, or even a promise of enlightenment to tell me that. All I need to do is open my eyes, see what is real, and get to work.