I have always wondered about those cults throughout history that predict and preach about the end of the world. What sort of things inspire them and make them feel they are so right? How do they get their followers to believe them and start planning their lives in readiness for the big day?
I guess if I was one of those people who walked around the place kitted out in a sandwich board with the message: The end of the world is nigh, I might have thought today was if not quite the day, then the day that was pointing with certainty to the last day. Basically there are some days when the world seems to have gone mad. September 12, 2012 was one of those days. It all began like an ordinary day.
My plan for the day was to go and buy boxes, we're moving again at the end of the month and not just moving house, but cities. The boxes are what we're using to store some of our stuff such as wall hangings, pictures, books and other such things that don't fit in suitcases. Then I intended to spend the rest of the day working on things such as this article while waiting for people coming to view the flat to show up and workmen to come and fill up the holes in the wall after we took down our stuff.
A fairly simple thought. So off we drove to Edenvale, a suburb of Johannesburg that is across town from Sandton and took us past neighbourhoods with names such as Marlboro (like in the cigarettes) and Alexandria (as in Egypt) and Eastleigh (as in the Nairobi suburb). That trip made me think I should write one day about the names of neighbourhoods in Johannesburg and compare them to similar neighbourhoods in Nairobi.
When I got back home I tuned into the radio and started surfing news sites online just to see what was happening around the world and that was when had I been one of those people who worry about the end of the world, I probably would have started worrying seriously. This would have been the perfect day to look for that bunker deep underground and to sit and wait with my canned provisions for armaggedon.
The first bit of news I hear was that a group of Libyans had attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi and killed the US ambassador. The Libyans had decided to turn on the representative of the country that helped them get rid of the dictatorial Gadaffi regime.
Would the US see this as a declaration of war and go in guns blazing and bombs blitzing? Some on Twitter were already suggesting this but my tweet of the day on situation was the guy who seemed to suggest that those same guns and bombs were what had led to this situation in the first place.
The next bit of news was that a group of disgruntled soldiers here in South Africa were dancing and singing songs in Lenasia, a suburb of Johannesburg waiting to be addressed by the new self-styled "people's watchman" of South African politics Julius Malema. Now in most other African countries disgruntled soldiers singing praise songs to a person who is hell bent on setting himself up in opposition to the government would seem like a mutiny.
However, there was more to this saga than met the eye. Malema, whose star has been waning in the last few months after he was expelled from the ruling African National Congress, is the supreme political opportunist and the recent massacre of miners by police gave him the chance to make a comeback and capitalise on the South African government's bad publicity at the time.
Now, according to Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in a radio interview, Malema has been "instigating people" in the past few weeks. This was an apparent reference to his address to mineworkers at the volatile Lonmin Platinum mine in Rustenburg, where 45 people have died in labour unrest in the past month and, more recently, his call to Goldfields miners to strike until the National Union of Mineworkers leaders step down.
The minister claimed that Malema seemed bent on turning soldiers against the state. Meanwhile, the soldiers who were in civilian dress and who have been on special leave since August 2009, were saying they wanted Malema to help them get back their jobs with the SA National Defence Force.
As all these was going on, there were reports that Somalia's new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the visiting Kenyan Foreign minister, Prof Sam Ongeri had escaped unharmed on from an alleged suicide bomb attack on the Mogadishu hotel where they were holding a news conference.
According to news reports, "The attack, in which two explosions shook the Somali capital, underscored the huge security challenges facing Mohamud after the first presidential vote in Somalia in decades which raised hopes for change after 20 years of violent anarchy."
Just as my mind was adjusting to all the doom and gloom in the world, I received a phone call from out of the blue from an old colleague who had heard I was back on the job market and thought he might be in a position to help.
We're meeting for coffee over the next few days and if all goes well, I won't be thinking about the end of the world again until the next crazy news cycle day.