“Gee, I sure do hate living through these historical events.”
That’s a phrase and a sentiment I’ve seen shared by a lot of people in my generation lately, especially in recent years. It’s one I understand and sympathize with.
It’s this feeling of helplessness many of us have as we watch world-shaping moments playing out in front of our eyes. Wars, natural disasters, genocides and, of course, a global pandemic are all things out of our control. Yet many people like me doom-scroll and pay close attention to them.
That wasn’t always my habit, especially as a kid.
Growing up in PEI and later Alberta I was generally unaware of what was going on in the early 2000s. For me, 911, the war on terror, and the invasion of Iraq were all half-understood concepts, at the periphery of my attention. I’ve come to understand their significance but at the time, I didn’t keep track of them.
That’s changed as I’ve grown older. I’ve gained a broader understanding of the global nature of our society. You start to realize how events on the other side of the world can directly shape and impact your everyday life in a way I didn’t fully understand as a child.
A large part of it has to do with the rise of the information age, which really kicked off as I left elementary school. Social media, the internet and personal electronic devices allowed my generation to watch events happening across the world in real-time.
One of the first I followed closely was the Maidan Protests that led to Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity. Something about that conflict grabbed me as I watched Vice News reports of first the protests, then the government’s efforts to clear them by lethal force, and finally Russia’s bald-faced annexation of Crimea and the declaration of two people’s republics in eastern Ukraine.
Now eight years later, the smouldering civil war between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian Separatists has become a full-fledged war that’s killed thousands and displaced millions. The first major European war since World War II unfolds in front of our eyes. It’s history none of us wanted to live through again.
Yet there is a benefit to living through historical events. Unlike the tragedies of the past, we can directly influence the events of today. The outcome is not known nor set in stone.