The End of the World As We Assume It

Reading Time: ~5 minutes

Global warming. A “conflict” in Libya. The two forgotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A shortage of water. Of food. Of oil. The fact that girl/guy you Facebook stalk is still going out with that hideous guy/girl. A Congressman’s Tweeted bulge. Not to mention earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis.

Things don’t seem to be going too well these days. Every morning, going to a news website (or finding one of the newspapers that spawn in dark corners of the subway) is a risk. Especially The Huffington Post, where you’re literally assaulted by capital letters so dramatic, so intense, that you can feel your mouse moving to click the latest tragedy on instinct.

Ever since I first became aware of something outside myself (an era I would cautiously define as “some point during college), I’ve been hungrily eating up this information and nodding to myself about the near-doom of our planet.

Want natural disasters? Google it. The most horrible things our government does that no one talks about? Democracy Now has archives that you can sift through, but The Daily Show is funnier.

To be honest, I don’t think things are getting worse, I think our awareness of them is getting better.  Which, in turn, makes our happiness worse. 

It’s through some gut instinct that we immediately lump together some news story as indicative of a general trend, be it scientific or social. Even though the reason that it’s news is basically because it’s not an everyday thing. For example, data shows that things like earthquakes aren’t actually increasing. 75% of American students report not being bullied.

The real issue is that with instant news comes instant reaction, and the consequences of this assimilation are far-reaching. Not only do we become more jaded, spread thin by disaster and chaos, we adopt a mindframe of instant gratification justified by the precipitant end of the world, be it be fire or water, earth or wind.

I’ve noticed this a lot in us “twentysomethings.” We grew up underneath a deceptive and murderous regime (George W. Bush) after the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history. We don’t suspect our politicians of lying, we know they do and we’re confronted with this reality on a daily basis.

There are complaints about people in my generation marrying later (44% of boomers 18-25 were married, compared to 15% of millennials)  , or taking too long to turn into “adults” (as categorized by somehow universal principles such as marriage and home ownership).

The truth is that most of us aren’t even sure we want to have kids. Right now, it’s not economically realistic. But the bigger problem is our perception of the world. Who wants to bring up children in a world where stuff like this keeps getting reported?

I sure don’t. I’d feel guilty, like my kids won’t even know what’s coming. Or what’s supposed to be coming.

This trend emerges again in the fact that millennials are often known as “job-hoppers.” We figure that we’re not going to be around long enough to really benefit from long-term gains, so we might as well be doing something we enjoy. Some people I know are just working so they can earn enough money to “travel,” whatever that may constitute.

A lot of disaffected young people who want(ed) to make a difference have already been turned off by the labrinthyne model of the non-profit sector, which is generally run by – not my words, but this from eyewitnesses – people who have yet to adapt to novelities like the internet.

Luckily, there are interns that can illegaly be hired to do gainful work for no pay. For the valuable experience of seeing that nonprofits only hire interns.

Not only that, it’s a simple fact that we don’t definie ourselves by our jobs, because so many of us don’t have one. I’ll get back to that next week.

The bottom line is that we’re actually doing much more harm than good by thinking about these issues all the time and giving the world itself, civilization as we know it, a timeline.

When we do this, we adapt to the idea that life could end at any second, so instead of thinking about the bigger picture, we’re just focusing on the very darkest colors and trying to paint something bright, some little splotch, in the meantime. So, at the end of the day, you’re left with a nauseous collage of different blobs rather than an actual painting.

Humans are last minute creatures. We’re not going to adapt to any of these crises until they’re already happening. That’s the way of life on both small and large scales. I hope that when global warming – or a similarly apocalyptic slow-motion disaster – does start rearing its ugly head, people will finally get the motivation to do something.

Then again, I’m not hopeful – I can’t even convince my roommates to recycle beer cans each week – so I fit neatly into the category of the permanent pessimist, just like any news reader. It’s the end of the world as we assume it. Even though, each morning, armageddon always seems to be one more day away and we have nothing new or permanent to show for the time we lost to worrying about the future that’s already here.

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