By Kahren Eloyan, Opinion Editor
// Not too long ago, I had a startling insight. Our generation is the first in over a century not to have been born into or have seen war on a global scale.
As I sat down and contemplated I understood that my realization was less of a generalization than I’d expected. My great-grandparents and their parents became victims of and refugees due to genocide in their ancestral homelands during World War One. Two of my grandparents were children when World War Two broke out, the other two were born a few years before the USSR detonated its first atomic bomb, beginning the Cold War in earnest. My parents hadn’t made it to ten when détente fell out of fashion and the world was again dragged into the nuclear crosshairs in the early eighties. Admittedly, I tend to take my fortune for granted, and I bet so does every teen at Acalanes.
There’s a deep well of hardship we’ve never needed to confront because the danger appears to have subsided. World wars seem to be a thing of the past and the loaded gun that is nuclear weaponry has been drawn away from the collective temple of mankind. But it’s been luck that’s kept us out of peril and allowed us to live as comfortably as we do. Fortune’s been the only thing that’s kept humanity’s bloodlust and capacity for self-destruction at bay, perhaps because people in the 20th century still remembered the suffering and the pain of those hundred years.
But memories grows weaker, and I think there’s a very real danger that our luck is about to run out.
It feels like that battle lines are being drawn and enemies evaluated every day. The world is now seen the through a lens of distrust and threat assessments. Arms races are ratcheting up. Politics and diplomacy grow ever-militarized. Relations between nations are deteriorating. Relations on a personal level seem to be breaking down, replaced by an idiotically single-minded, black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us, us-or-them mentality. This madness is diffusing itself across the globe, infiltrating the top of society and then filtering down- every country, state, county, city, district, neighborhood, block, household, family, and person.
But I believe we’re about to reach the breaking point. This condition is unsustainable. Sooner or later the powder keg has to blow, and when it does, the result will be war on an unprecedented scale. Where the main divergence will be with previous wars will be, however, is that the twenty-first century has the destructive luxury of nuclear bombs and leaders who wouldn’t be bothered to use them.
The consensus that informed the Cold War- that nukes could never be unleashed in war without causing global annihilation, seems to have been forgotten. The memories of the horrors and the cruelty of two world wars have lapsed. Whatever precluded the use of nuclear weaponry before is now gone, which means that if we allow ourselves to be pulled into World War Three, casualties will no longer be counted by millions, but by billions.
In the face of all of this, it’s difficult not to feel powerless and small. As a single person among billions, it’ll always seem impossible to change the course humanity is taking, but just as the madness filters down through society, its antidote can filter through to the top. A small adjustment in mentality on a personal level can result in a paradigm shift in society that will create a safer world for everyone. Maybe it’s clichéd or cheesy to ask people to not hate everyone around them and to try and see the world in less oppositional terms, but even if it is a trite notion, shouldn’t we at least try?