“Well, I really hate living through these historical events.”
It’s a phrase and a sentiment that I’ve seen shared by a lot of people of my generation lately, especially in recent years. It’s one that I understand and sympathize with.
It’s that feeling of helplessness that many of us experience as we watch world-shaping moments unfold before our eyes. Wars, natural disasters, genocides and, of course, a global pandemic are all things beyond our control. Still, a lot of people like me scroll through the doom and pay close attention to it.
It was not always my habit, especially when I was a child.
Growing up in Prince Edward Island and later Alberta, I was generally unaware of what was happening in the early 2000s. For me, 911, the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq were all half-understood concepts, on the periphery of my attention. I came to understand their meaning but at the time, I didn’t keep track of them.
This changed with age. I gained a broader understanding of the global nature of our society. You are beginning to realize how events on the other side of the world can directly shape and impact your daily life in ways that I did not fully understand as a child.
A lot of that has to do with the rise of the information age, which really kicked off when I left elementary school. Social media, the Internet, and personal electronic devices have allowed my generation to follow events happening around the world in real time.
One of the first that I followed closely was the Maidan protests that led to the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity. Something about this conflict gripped me as I watched Vice News reporting on first the protests, then the government’s efforts to suppress them with lethal force, and finally the brazen annexation of Crimea by Russia and the declaration of two people’s republics in eastern Ukraine.
Now, eight years later, the simmering civil war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists has become a full-fledged war that has killed thousands and displaced millions. The first major European war since World War II is unfolding before our eyes. It’s a story none of us wanted to relive.
Still, there is an advantage to living through historical events. Unlike the tragedies of the past, we can directly influence the events of today. The result is not known or set in stone.
100 mile house