“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all” – Emily Dickinson
Fear and Hope for Young People Today
“I feel sorry for young people today,” a friend said to me recently. “They are growing up in a terrible time.”
I gave him a sympathetic nod. I didn’t want to get into it. I don’t have the same feeling. And I’m not even sure why.
I can understand his point of view. We are going through unprecedented times, as everyone is saying. Never before in modern history (or perhaps in all of recorded history) has so much of the world’s commerce been intentionally shut down for fear of a potential catastrophe. What does this mean for the future? Are we moving into another Great Depression? Will another virus overwhelm us? Will climate change and/or a nuclear war decimate the human race?
The answer comes easily: Maybe… or maybe not.
We don’t know. And so we can’t be sure how we should feel. Or what we should do.
Much of this is a matter of emotion: fear and hope. And emotions are greatly influenced by the information we take in. My friend is a heavy consumer of the mainstream media, and mainstream media long ago learned that fear sells better than hope.
But as to this particular question: Are kids today living in such terrible times?
I was thinking about that when I received the following email from a colleague:
Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and it ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.
Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.
On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, world GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.
When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath.
On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII.
Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.
At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. At 55, the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.
On your 62nd birthday, you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.
When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.
Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they survive all of that?
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