Time of Troubles - A decade of economic and social strife within the Russian Empire between the late 1500s to the early 1600s. It was a period of famine, eventually killing roughly a third of the population, brought about by a combination of urbanization, environmental change and a religiously-driven political power-grab of epic proportions.
The disorder resulted in the initiation of the Tsarist Romanov dynasty in 1613 that lasted for nearly three hundred years.
I'm scared, you're scared, we're scared
It is very easy to be scared right now. The omnipresent spectres of imminent global annihilation and it’s less pernicious, yet far more prevalent cousin, minor discomfort, lurk within the opaque depths of the mass psyche. The stories of our time tell us that there is truth in at least some, if not all, of these contemporary fears.
The horror stories of our day swirl through the global consciousness with ease like a dark, omnipresent smoke eddying throughout the atmosphere.
Ironically, the two most alarming threats to our continued flourishment on this planet are dismissed by many with a childish bravado that is all too easily sublimated down into the depths of the past tense. These two harrowing futures are the topic of regular geo-political discourse, so you’d be forgiven for somewhat overlooking them if this is not your explicit area of interest or expertise.*
• Political failure and a subsequent nuclear confrontation
• Man-made environmental catastrophe
The latter being the topic of regular debate, since this is something that affects and is affected by many more than the former. Shorter showers may or may not play a significant role in the precipitation of ecological disaster however, the dealings of geo-political and ideological strife that course through the grand halls of the highest tiers of political and economic influence, is hardly the concern of working-class denizens of reality.
If for any reason, you balk at the gravity of this precarious double act of man-made calamity, perhaps consider investigating the historical and contemporary significance of the Bureau of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock .
* Personally, I find cat-breading a far more palatable topic
Now, if reality doesn't get you worked up
Apart from these two perils, there are some more politicised and socially pertinent fearmongering favourites such as…
• Religious fundamentalism and the constant clash of ideological belief structures among wealthy regional blocs
• Rampant human rights injustices and the ongoing struggle for economic and social equality
• Worsening financial inequality and the almost taboo discussion of class warfare
• The economic strong-arming and financiering that has abetted the fortification of economically-minded partisan politics
• Industrial monopolies and growing corporate hegemony that has thrived since the “Reaganomics” period of deregulation in the West
• Financial fragility and crises, outsourcing, automation and joblessness
• Incurable or un-diagnosable diseases as well as the ethical limitations and weaknesses of the pharmaceutical industry
You might not appreciate or weigh the gravity of this list as I do, but I imagine that a number of readers out there in the cyberspace are frightened at the prospect of at least one of these leering threats making themselves manifest in their lives.
What my TV tells me
Every minute, the various news outlets dutifully report to us that these troubling occurrences are on a mission of continual evolution, twisting and grotesquely transmogrifying into new and uniquely bizarre forms. Regional radio, TV, and internet sources then take the liberty of localizing these horrors right into our own backyards, despite the seeming inviolability of one’s own personal domestic sanctuary.
This relatively unrestrained fearmongering transfigures the notion, into a seemingly inescapable nightmarish epic. To further illustrate the point, the issues of environmental calamity and nuclear holocaust, for example, are nightmare-inducing scenarios, indifferent to the geographic diaspora of humanity.
I posit that finger-tip access to unfathomably immense swathes of often heavily-biased information (that may or may not have an intentional leaning toward a dismal and despairing tone) will inevitably lead to a perhaps heretofore unknown influence of the recipient both on conscious and, more importantly, unconscious levels of perception.
One might even go so far as to say that our contemporary techno-utopian “age of information” could, in the same breath, connote an “age of fear”.
I suspect that our gravitation towards the more morose side of human thought and language is due to an evolved bias; That homo sapiens have, over a lengthy period of trial and error, developed an inclination for information that improves the odds of avoiding all forms of both physical danger and emotional discomfort.
What I tell myself
Recall the deterministically despondent tropes recited a thousand times by friends, family and acquaintances:
“Some things are just out of your control…”
“That’s just the way the cookie crumbles…”
“What can just one person do?”
“Some things never change…”
One might even be scared enough to rationalise an unusually despondent worldview by labelling oneself a “realist”.
Have you ever considered that this line of thought could be irresponsible and detrimental to the mental health of those around to absorb such messages?
Despite the factual façade that these quasi-truthful amalgamations of reality and opinions may erect within our minds in relation to the large-scale macro-environments of politics, the economy, and international warfare, saying these self-same words gives credence to these counter-productive strains of thought on the micro-level. While waxing lyrical about the endless tragedy of a distant calamity to your colleagues, friends, your romantic partner, or heaven forbid, your kids, you are may be instilling a fear of that which neither of you can influence in any direct manner. It stands to reason that this subliminal anxiety will have to be made manifest in one way or another.
Consider, that messages of despair are actively conditioning the people one is closest to, to the idea that they are helpless in almost every conceivable way.
But fear not, friend
About the Author
A contemporary look into the field of memetics, for thinkers - by thinkers