30 votes

Has it ever felt like this before?

I'm 22. Until a few years ago, I was pretty left-leaning and felt the urgency of it in empathy, but things feel different now. It feels like we're at the bad end of a game someone failed at the last checkpoint. The world as we know it has already ended, and as much as I know we'll make it out of this pandemic, it kind of doesn't feel like we'll make it out of the larger situation. Corporations are consolidating power, rising fascism, and a ticking time bomb in climate change just to give it a little more urgency.

So, those of you who've been around the sun a few more times - has it ever felt like this before? Am I just feeling this despair because I'm inexperienced and haven't been through it before, or is this crisis really something new?

EDIT: Thank you to everyone for the responses. It's made me feel better, in a way, to know that others see what I see, but also that we as a species have pulled through similarly terrible times in the past.

Here's hoping we make it right before we totally wipe ourselves out.

18 comments

  1. Erik
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    I'm about double your age and no, it's never felt like this. But being on the left and losing is nothing new, we lose a lot. That's what fighting power is; if you're winning a lot, you're on the...

    I'm about double your age and no, it's never felt like this. But being on the left and losing is nothing new, we lose a lot. That's what fighting power is; if you're winning a lot, you're on the side with power. This quote from I.F. Stone sticks with me when thinking about this: "“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it - to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.”

    19 votes
  2. dubteedub
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    Yes. America has had so many struggles over the last several decades and faced a multitude of crises. The incredibly tumultuous times of the 60s comes top of mind for me in looking back on recent...

    Has it ever felt like this before?

    Yes. America has had so many struggles over the last several decades and faced a multitude of crises. The incredibly tumultuous times of the 60s comes top of mind for me in looking back on recent history.

    We were engulfed in an endless war in Vietnam, our cities were burning from major riots, MLK/Malcolm X/JFK all had been assassinated, unarmed students were being shot by our government in Kent State, Eastern Europe was under authoritarian rule by the Soviet Union, there was a fear that Democracy was under attack around the world, all while everyone was faced with the constant fear of nuclear annihilation.

    That is not to say that things are not bad or difficult now, but we all face obstacles to overcome and should not be discouraged by whatever setbacks that we face.

    With John Lewis' recent passing, I think this quote is still very relevant.

    “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis

    16 votes
  3. [3]
    skybrian
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    Not that I can remember, but one of the things I get from reading history is that there were a lot of times and places that were worse. History seems to be mostly about terrible things happening....

    Not that I can remember, but one of the things I get from reading history is that there were a lot of times and places that were worse. History seems to be mostly about terrible things happening.

    Most recently in the US, the late 60's and early 70's. It seems there was a time when there were frequent assassinations and bombs were going off every day in many parts of the US. And then it just... stopped?

    23 votes
    1. [2]
      knocklessmonster
      Link Parent
      I read a theory that it may have actually been to do with lead toxicity. It caused issues with increased aggression and lowered intelligence. It has been observed, to back this claim up, that...

      It seems there was a time when there were frequent assassinations and bombs were going off every day in many parts of the US. And then it just... stopped?

      I read a theory that it may have actually been to do with lead toxicity. It caused issues with increased aggression and lowered intelligence. It has been observed, to back this claim up, that there was a decrease in murder that matched the decrease of lead concentrations in the air. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt, though.

      8 votes
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        You're probably thinking of the decline in violent crime in general that came later. The 1980's were the peak for that. See the graph on Wikipedia. There are many theories about why it happened...

        You're probably thinking of the decline in violent crime in general that came later. The 1980's were the peak for that. See the graph on Wikipedia. There are many theories about why it happened and lead toxicity seems like a good one, but hard to tell.

        Political crimes like bombings have their own trends. For example, airliner hijackings peaked just before 1970.

        7 votes
  4. culturedleftfoot
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    Quoting the top response to a similar question posed a few days ago in /r/AskOldPeople: I agree with this for the most part. I'd add that the impact of the Internet and social media in particular...

    Quoting the top response to a similar question posed a few days ago in /r/AskOldPeople:

    In the 80s, the Cold War was still going on, and the US was supporting right-wing guerrillas in Central America. Domestically, there was the AIDS epidemic, homelessness, and the crack epidemic. The inner cities collapsed, and we all thought they would be ruled by gangs forever. (Check out the movies of the era, like Escape from New York).

    The Soviet Union fell in 1989, which led to democratization in Europe and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Then there was the gulf war, Rwanda, and the war in the Balkans. Domestically, AIDS go worse, the homicide rate was 4 time why it is now, and domestic terrorists blew up the federal building in Oklahoma in response to Waco and Ruby Ridge.

    The 2000s has 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terrorism. It felt like we were reverting to the 80s when the CIA was always lurking behind, and Congress and the President were trying to send American citizens to Guantanamo Bay. The the financial system collapsed and everything really went to shit.

    It’s hard to compare one decade to another without a century of seeing how things turned out. To me the 80s and 90s feel calmer, but I was young and we tend to view our youth through rose-colored glasses.

    So, yeah, I think today’s worse, but not that much worse. In some ways it’s better. My life as a gay man is much better now than it was 30 years ago.

    (Listen to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Everything line of the song is full of cultural touchstones that people fought fiercely over.)

    I agree with this for the most part. I'd add that the impact of the Internet and social media in particular is not to be underestimated in how they amplify everything now as compared to pre-2010s. At the same time, I'm not sure there are many instances in history that had a similar coincidence of paucity in leadership in the major powers that didn't result in terrible wars.

    19 votes
  5. [2]
    Loire
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    It's never been this bad in our life times no. You aren't feeling something unusual. I'm sorry I can't offer you more reassurance. It has been this bad in the past and we came through it....

    It's never been this bad in our life times no. You aren't feeling something unusual.

    I'm sorry I can't offer you more reassurance. It has been this bad in the past and we came through it. Unfortunately past performance is no indication of future results.

    13 votes
    1. SuperGracchiBros
      Link Parent
      As Gramsci said, "“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” It's important to recognise how bad things are, which I agree are the worst in a while. The only way we can get through them...

      As Gramsci said, "“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” It's important to recognise how bad things are, which I agree are the worst in a while. The only way we can get through them is optimistically work and fight to makes things better.

      14 votes
  6. joplin
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    I will say that I've felt similarly in the past. Definitely the Reagan/Elder Bush years seemed a lot like this. During that time, we had the boogey-man of Russia instead of "terrorism" or China....

    I will say that I've felt similarly in the past. Definitely the Reagan/Elder Bush years seemed a lot like this. During that time, we had the boogey-man of Russia instead of "terrorism" or China. We had a devotion by the government to corporations. We had racial tensions not at all helped by our leaders. Homophobia was mainstream and out in the open in our popular culture. You think American's are prudes now? NBC ran a public service ad in the 80s that was supposed to be about condoms, but they had to have the actor talk about putting on socks instead because they weren't allowed to say the word "condom" on the air.

    That said, we did not have a pandemic. We did not have antivaxxers, flat earthers, and other nutters getting such a huge platform to spread their toxic BS. The majority of the population agreed that Nazis were bad. So it's not exactly the same. But it definitely had a similar flavor.

    13 votes
  7. [2]
    Eric_the_Cerise
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    I was tempted to say no. But after glancing through others' answers ... I grew up during the Cold War, and I think that was close. Specifically, the nuclear proliferation and the US/USSR's...

    I was tempted to say no. But after glancing through others' answers ... I grew up during the Cold War, and I think that was close. Specifically, the nuclear proliferation and the US/USSR's strategy of "Mutually Assured Destruction" (literally, ironically, abbreviated as MAD).

    I still remember articles and analyses that tried to calculate how many times over the existing nuclear stockpiles could kill everyone on Earth, if they were all detonated. I can still remember a sleepless night when I finally understood the meaning of the lyrics in Men At Work's "Overkill". I still remember the discovery (thanks in part to studying global Martian dust storms) of Nuclear Winter -- the notion that the detonation of even a few hundred nukes (and combined, the US & USSR had 10s of 1000s) would kick up enough soot and debris into the upper atmosphere to induce permanent winter on the planet for up to a decade, or more. I remember people trying to figure out if the southern hemisphere might be semi-protected, due to the Doldrums and the strong division between northern and southern air movement ... (hey! let's move to Chile or Australia to survive WWIII) ... spoiler: Nah, it only delays the nuclear fallout by a few weeks. I remember missile drills in school, where we'd all hunker down under our desks as far from the windows as possible -- as though that would protect us from a 20-megaton blast.

    There was a global nature about the Cold War. Yeah, it was mainly just the US & USSR, but their strategy materially threatened every human being on the planet; possibly every living thing. Scientifically, I expect we know a lot more about the effects of large-scale nuclear war, and when/where/who/how we'd survive ... at the time though, for decades, we were still figuring it out -- much like Covid today, every year or two brought new revelations, some good, mostly bad.

    I don't know if we survived the Cold War through good military strategy, some sort of societal wisdom or just plain old dumb luck (the Cuban Missile Crisis was really close) ... but that feeling that the entire planet is dependent upon humans not being idiots, that's what it feels like to me now, as it did then.

    WWI and WWII are both before my time, but I kind of get the impression that they may have felt similar to people back then, too. But broadly, I think that's what is new about today and the past--at most--century ... the global nature of it. Humans have faced many really horrible catastrophes, but I think you'd almost have to go back to Toba (assuming it actually did impact humanity the way it is hypothesized) for such existential threats.

    8 votes
    1. Sand
      Link Parent
      Yes, it would.

      I remember missile drills in school, where we'd all hunker down under our desks as far from the windows as possible -- as though that would protect us from a 20-megaton blast.

      Yes, it would.

      1 vote
  8. pew
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    I'm not sure. Recently I started reading up on Stoicism and I always come across things like history repeats itself. There were a lot of bad things happening all the time. Here's a guardian...

    I'm not sure. Recently I started reading up on Stoicism and I always come across things like history repeats itself. There were a lot of bad things happening all the time. Here's a guardian article about this, also covering the pandemic right now.

    I'm in the middle of reading the mentioned book (How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius) but haven't finished it yet.

    6 votes
  9. [3]
    Kuromantis
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    I'm not older so this is kind of uninformed and to an extent unrelated speculation, but here goes: Given history, it seems no, not since somewhere in the interwar years (1918-1920s) in Europe,...

    I'm not older so this is kind of uninformed and to an extent unrelated speculation, but here goes:

    Has it ever felt like this before?

    Given history, it seems no, not since somewhere in the interwar years (1918-1920s) in Europe, where there were:

    deep breath

    Civil Wars in the entirety of eastern Europe including Poland the Baltics, Finland, Makhnovia (Based ancoms), Austria Hungary (Austria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Checoslovakia romania), China, a communist revolution in Germany, Irish independence, the Mexican revolution, Egyptian revolution, the Ottoman Empire and Atatürk (and the Armenian genocide) and influenza. (Seriously, just stroll through this list to get an idea of the clusterfuck of the time.)

    Which were not too soon followed by the great depression which led to nazism, to an extent Hirohito, and it's not like a load of shit was happening in the colonies of the European empires and women's suffrage was a mess too in many places. Don't forget the banana Republics and that coup of Brazil in 1930, that happened too.

    After WW2 and in the cold war the world was much more stable and generally okay, although obviously there was all forms of prejudice that were mainstream and are trying to mainstream themselves today. War was limited and the economy was doing well for the US (again, still loaded with prejudice) and there wasn't much more armed conflict than coups (admittedly kinda minimized, Latin America is still paying for em) and proxy wars. There was also decolonization, although I don't think it was easy. *In general, people could expect the American dream to be fulfilled by their children and that their system of government and economics would be agreed upon by most people. The big issue was convincing people to get over prejudice, which was a lot but only one lot.

    Back then it seems we persevered though because the US was not consumed by war and could take charge after the old world battered itself to shit. The US seems to have done relatively well for itself, not being engulfed by war and having surprisingly limited challenge to democracy, main threats being Huey Long and Charles Coughlin. When crisis came, the US elected FDR and gave him a very large mandate which allowed him to pass the new deal and keep the nation together, reduce inequality, etc.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Yes, lots of horrific events in there, and that's just a small sample. In particular, I think you're missing a lot of exciting postwar events in the 1960's and 70's. I don't think the world seemed...

      Yes, lots of horrific events in there, and that's just a small sample. In particular, I think you're missing a lot of exciting postwar events in the 1960's and 70's. I don't think the world seemed at all stable at the time.

      5 votes
      1. Kuromantis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I admittedly strolled through the messes of the cold war a bit fast. Saudi Arabia, a coup and a revolution in Iran, COINTELPRO, MKULTRA, HUAC, the entirety of the civil rights movement (on a...

        Yeah, I admittedly strolled through the messes of the cold war a bit fast.

        Saudi Arabia, a coup and a revolution in Iran, COINTELPRO, MKULTRA, HUAC, the entirety of the civil rights movement (on a somewhat related note, see this article on congressmen beating eachother up before the civil war), MAD, Phyllis Schlafly, cigarette companies behaving like oil companies, all the coups in Latin America, a few endless wars too (Vietnam was ~20 years), Stalin and Mao being Stalin and Mao, lowering the age of voting from 21 to 18, getting DC EC representation, Watergate and Nixon doing a lot to undermine racial justice, LGBT rights, masturbation being unironically labeled a mental disorder, Healthcare being repeatedly troubled since the Roosevelts, Polio and more.

        Thing is, when Nixon was revealed to have committed what was then called massive crimes, people were requesting him to resign or people to impeach him, and his approval rating fell to ~-25% and he resigned from office. Noone was expecting foreign governments to try to run our elections and the president to actively encourage them. Democracy was taken seriously, although, obviously, disenfranchisement has been a thing in US history for as long as the US has existed, but mass disenfranchisement has not been such a threat since the compromise of 1876 and Jim Crow. If I were informed that Trump is not going to make any serious efforts to disenfranchise people from voting during his presidency and no foreign powers will do that for him either, I would honestly be a lot less afraid of him and be talking about demographic destiny and how finished Trump is. That's what separates him and this period from practically every other president.

        We can no longer guarantee the electoral process will work appropriately.

        IMO, that's a first.

        2 votes
  10. kfwyre
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    You're not alone in this. I think we're living in unprecedented times. I waver between a pessimism bordering on pathological and a conviction that people at large are resilient and good and that...

    You're not alone in this. I think we're living in unprecedented times. I waver between a pessimism bordering on pathological and a conviction that people at large are resilient and good and that we will find ways to weather any storm we're confronted with.

    5 votes
  11. asoftbird
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    It felt like this since around 2015 imo. Something is off, something's fucky and something is going terribly wrong somewhere.

    It felt like this since around 2015 imo. Something is off, something's fucky and something is going terribly wrong somewhere.

    3 votes
  12. Greg
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    I'm re-watching The West Wing right now. It was an escapist fantasy aimed at the kind of people who claim to read The New Yorker. It's an alternate history: one that asks "What if the US had...

    I'm re-watching The West Wing right now. It was an escapist fantasy aimed at the kind of people who claim to read The New Yorker. It's an alternate history: one that asks "What if the US had competent, compassionate, fiercely intelligent leadership?". That was what we dreamed of 20 years ago as Bush and Blair led us into pointless wars that saw hundreds of thousands die. It doesn't feel remotely out of place today.

    I'm not saying things haven't changed. I'm not even saying they haven't changed for the worse. It's more that they've been bad for a long time now. I don't have a lot of hope or belief that things will improve, but what little I do have is bolstered by the feeling that we're on a precipice right now.

    Maybe, just maybe, we can salvage some real change from the ashes of this upheaval rather than following the same slow downward march we've been on since Thatcher and Reagan.

    3 votes
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