No one could have predicted that all the wacky doomsday predictions tied to the Mayan calendar and December 21, 2012 would mark a new beginning for PeaceJam, the homegrown effort that links Nobel Peace Prize winners with kids, teaching them how to make a difference in the world. But assuming the world doesn't end today, PeaceJam is on the path to a prosperous future.
That's because for all the high-minded activities that PeaceJam has hosted, the international gatherings and teach-ins at schools around the world, what really caught the attention of the public -- and funders -- was the group's two movies on the Mayan myths -- and realities.
Seventeen years after Dawn Engle and Ivan Sujanvieff founded PeaceJam, they're an overnight success. Last week they were at a hoity-toity high-tech summit in California; right now they're in Guatemala, participating in a three-day summit with indigenous youth leaders set up by the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation. And last night, they showed their film Mayan Renaissance to the group; with a discussion with Mayan elders following.
I caught up with Engle and Sujanvieff between trips, to talk about PeaceJam's remarkable success story (which I tell in "Doom Service" in this week's Westword) and also to get this list of the ten worst myths about the Mayan calender, myths they debunk in their movies. And here it is:
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Ten Worst Myths About the Mayan Calendar
1) The Maya were aliens from outer space...they came, built things and gave wisdom, and then returned to their alien homeland.
2) The Maya were survivors from the lost city of Atlantis...they came, built things and gave wisdom, and then mysteriously disappeared.
3) The smart Mayans who accomplished so much mysteriously disappeared 900 years ago...and there are no true Mayans alive today. The ones who say they are Mayans are just plain Indians, not Mayan at all. "So racist and so insulting!" say Engle and Suvanjieff.
4) There is a large crack in Earth's magnetic shield, and a massive burst of solar flares is going to come from the sun in 2012, and then the world is going to end.
5) A black hole in the center of the universe is going to suck Earth into oblivion in 2012, and then the world is going to end.
6) Huge gamma-ray bursts are heading toward Earth from the center of the universe; they will hit hard in 2012, and then the world is going to end.
7) A comet is going to hit Earth in 2012, ending all human life -- just as a comet ended the lives of the dinosaurs.
8) A massive polar shift is about to happen, which will cause Earth to shift off its axis (the North Pole and South Pole switch places), causing earthquakes, floods and super volcanoes. (This theory was the basis for the Hollywood movie 2012.)
9) Earth's evil twin planet, called Planet X or Planet Niurbu, is finishing a super-long orbit and is going to collide with Earth in 2012, killing us all. (This theory was the basis for the Hollywood movie Melancholia.)
10) And, of course, a nuclear war will start in the Middle East in 2012, which will mark the beginning of Armageddon, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, etc., riding in and everything happening just as it does in the Bible's Book of Revelation. "Harold Camping was big on this one," Engle and Suvanjieff point out, "but he just can never get the date right! That's why we made Jesus vs. Bono, to make fun of Harold Camping.... People were quitting their jobs, selling all of their life possessions, giving all their wealth to Harold Camping's 'church,' And then when the end of the world did not come, he just kept their money!"