Looking at the facts to realize how we can overcome anything

One day a long, long time ago, life changed drastically for the people living when a cataclysmic event occurred. A volcano erupted in Iceland, causing what was thought to be a fog that blocked out the sun across Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Global temperatures fell as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius. Due to the drop in temperature, crops failed and people starved.

The year? 536 AD, and things would only get worse. The dust from the volcano lasted for 18 months. The famine would continue for three years, only to be replaced by the bubonic plague a couple of years later. Historians estimate that the plague wiped out up to half of the Eastern Roman Empire. “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says Michael McCormick, a historian, archaeologist, and chair of Harvard University’s Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

Other awful periods in history made life miserable for people. Countless wars, periods of political unrest, natural disasters, and famines dot human history as far back as there are records. During each of these times, the human race faced imminent death. Whether it was worrying when the next bomb would drop or when the next meal was, there was something that united people at an international level. Especially in terms of international conflict, there was always an “other” for us to focus on as a society.

From 1914 to 1945, with a short break in the middle, the world was at war. After that, other international conflicts, highlighted by the Vietnam War, pulled us through the ‘60s and ‘70s and various other, smaller wars in the 1980s.

That’s been pretty much it since then. Yes, there are still areas of the world that live in terror every day, but on an international scale it’s not even close. According to the Human Security Report Project, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo, today’s conflict-related death tolls (as a percent of total population) are so small, they don’t even register on the graph.

So what do we do when there is no “other” to give us focus? We make one. Not that it was never there, but with more people living a higher quality of life than ever before, people as a whole have more time to make mountains out of molehills. Hate-based groups have always existed, but technological advancements have made their presence more widely known. Does this make Soldiers of Odin (or whatever they call themselves now) more dangerous than the KKK were at their peak in 1924? No, because the values they hold do not reflect the consensus of society. The same goes for LGBTQ2S+ rights, gender-pronouns, immigration, and climate change. The vast majority of people believe in equality and love and science. Most people don’t care what bathroom you use—just wash your hands!

Life is not perfect. Politicians who hold minority beliefs are using populism to win elections in order to further their special interests. This isn’t new, but it is a growing problem. Thankfully, much like this article has attempted to do, if you arm yourself with facts instead of feelings, you will realize that humans are extraordinarily resilient. If we educate ourselves and work together, there is nothing we can’t overcome. Besides, life is pretty good right now, and if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by it all, just be thankful it’s not 536 AD.

Life is better than it’s ever been for the human race. | Photo by Luz Fuertes on Unsplash