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Armageddon for beginners

/ 04:20 AM January 10, 2020

I arrived at school bewildered and confused at the sudden uneasiness of a sunny September day. I was 9 and was on third grade, mouth agape as the word “war” made the rounds among my restless classmates and worried teachers. On that eventful day in September 2001, even before flag ceremony had begun, we were told that we were on the brink of war.

Unbelievably, almost two decades later, I am witnessing another World War III scare. The same fear is making its rounds among a new, younger generation, although with more idiosyncratic reactions than I’ve ever experienced. For instance, the topic trended on Twitter, generated a whole bunch of memes and even engendered a strange sense of nostalgia for some.

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It isn’t just the specter of war that flooded my social media feed. The terror gripping Australia is heightening our worries and our feelings of helplessness. That we watch with horror as these events unfold is an understatement. Images of razed homes and lives lost are unsettling. But also unsettling are the conspiracies and misinformation campaigns that are massively circulating around us, as we come to terms with how we are dealing with social media during a crisis (including bullying wealthy celebrities to donate, which we shouldn’t do, of course).

We are barely scraping through the new year, and people already scream Armageddon. Who can blame them? The news reports that permeate our consciousness as we start the year are admittedly out of the ordinary. Catastrophe seems to be happening on several fronts: ecological, political, economic, psychological.

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Images of a prophetic street crier with warnings written on a cardboard aptly capture the situation we are in right now, except that we can be the criers ourselves and the message on the cardboard is our reaction to the world that’s fraying around us. It would be impossible to be apathetic in any way in these times.

The word “preppers” has been coined for people who are preparing for the eventual decline of the world. I thought minimalism was radical enough, until I came to know of people doing actual preparations for a projected apocalypse. There are documentaries, videos and podcasts about these preppers. And why not? As Monica Dux expressed in The Sydney Morning Herald, “Preparing for Armageddon doesn’t seem so weird these days.”

I can’t say that doomsday fears are irrational, though I would like to believe that we can remain sustainable and rational through any crisis. That we can survive, and that perhaps we are simply worrying ourselves crazy.

But at the age of twentysomething, I have not also lived long enough to be an authority on life and how human beings think. And at this point when the world really does seem to be escalating into chaos, I worry about the much younger ones. For the first time, I found myself saying recently to a kid, “It is something for the adults to worry about.” Unfortunately, I am one of those adults. Wrote Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs in The New York Times: “For a post-9/11 generation, war isn’t new, but fears of another one are.”

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TAGS: Armageddon, Australia bush fire, World War III scare
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