Apocalypse soon?

April 11, 2010 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

Of late I have been feeling anxious about the future. I’m not just speaking about my own prospects. The world in general feels to be careening toward its own destruction at lightning speed. What will it be? A nuclear explosion, a meteor or earthquake, a terrorist attack the likes of which we have never before encountered, a new Black Plague? So many choices for how the world will end.

I catch myself thinking that things used to be so much better “in the good old days” of my childhood. Of course, that’s hooey, especially in my case. My teen years unfolded in a country drenched in racial injustice, political unrest and violence. I am speaking of my birth country: South Africa. For a time I thought we were destined for civil war. Fear of the outside world was inbred in us Afrikaners from a young age – it was a means of survival. Trust no one and you still might get hurt.

So why now, this notion that today is worse than yesterday and tomorrow will be even less OK than today? Is it because the news stories themselves are more upsetting than in the past? Or has my threshold for hyped-up blood and guts gone down?

With the internet, we have access to breaking news instantly. It’s hard not to notice things when they’re constantly, unavoidably in your face. Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe the downside of instant connection is that there’s no escaping the horrors that surround us.

In an age before the internet the world experienced some pretty hefty calamities. I mean, a mere 60 years ago a German tried to wipe out an entire people and take over the world. Frighteningly, he almost succeeded! Not to mention the cold war and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation that reigned over the 50s and 60s. And anyone who has read their Roman history knows that millions upon millions of people died during the age of the Roman conquests. Julius Caesar killed more people than all the Jews who died under the Third Reich.

Is the world really scarier? Or we just more tuned in?

Age might have something to do with it too. Maybe thinking the world is going down the tubes is a rite of passage, an entry into the grown-up world of responsibility – a realization that we build the world, each of us, every day. The trick is to hold onto enough of the hopeful child we once were to withstand the steady onslaught of the awful present. Hope is the antidote for fear. It inspires us to want to make a difference.

But you need to grow up to actually make that difference a reality. Question is: what difference do you want to make?

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