This is another video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is a brief video essay, as well as a reflection of sorts, on the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. It’s an issue that has suddenly become more relevant in recent years and for all the wrong reasons. But the circumstances (and absurdities) of what happened in the 1980s were unique. And they’re worth learning from, especially if those with agendas are intent on starting a whole new panic.
Tag Archives: history
Remembering And Learning From The Satanic Panic
Filed under Current Events, Jack's World, politics, psychology, YouTube
Remember The Dream On Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a day some take for granted, seeing it just another day off. For others, it’s a solemn reminder of a Civil Rights icon who dared to dream of a more equal and just society. There’s a lot I could say about Dr. King, what he did, what he achieved, and what he stood for. There’s even more I could say about the regressive forces that opposed him, some of which are still very prominent and very dangerous today.
However, I’ll save those words for another time. For this special day commemorating a very special man, I’ll just encourage everyone to listen to his words once more and keep his dream alive.
Filed under Current Events
The Human Population Has Reached 8 Billion: Thoughts, Feelings, Hopes, And (Dirty) Jokes
Recently, the human race achieved a major milestone.
According to the United Nations, the human population of this planet exceeded 8 billion for the first time.
It became official on November 15, 2022. That’s not to say the measure was precise. We are talking about global population here on a chaotic world. The best we can ever do is reasonable, educated guesses. And using that standard and the limited tools available to us, we can confidently determine that we’ve crossed that special 8 billion threshold.
We’ll probably never know who was the 8 billionth human.
We’ll probably never know where they were born, what their circumstances were, or whether they were aware of their importance.
But whoever they are, they got us to that milestone and beyond. What it means for us, as a species, is hard to quantify, even for exceptionally smart people. I don’t consider myself exceptionally smart, but I’m still going to try.
Now, it’s easy for the cynical crowd to see this milestone and say to themselves, “Just what we need. More humans on this overpopulated planet to suck more dwindling resources.” Believe me, I get that mentality. I’ve certainly shared my own growing cynicism from time to time. I think it’s largely a byproduct of getting older and being more aware of just how complicated and messy people can be.
However, as cynical as I often feel at times, I have not completely abandoned hope for humanity or our collective future. I’ve come close a few times. The events of 2020 certainly tested me. But for the moment, that hope is still intact and I think this milestone offers perspective, as well as encouragement.
For one, it definitively shows that, as bad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been these past two years, it hasn’t been apocalyptic. It did disrupt our society, our world, and our lives. But it didn’t send our entire population into a death spiral in the same mold as the plagues of the past. In another time and another era, it might have really hit our species harder, so much so that we might be in far greater danger.
But we endured. We adapted, innovated, and survived. While there are still some who insist on dragging their feet with respect to progress and modern medicine, that hasn’t completely dragged down the whole of humanity. More than anything else, it reveals just how complicated, erratic, and diverse we can be.
It’s easy to focus on the worst of humanity and get lost in the horror. I know I have. Anyone who has picked up a history book probably feels that way, too. But that just makes this milestone all the more impressive. The fact that we’ve lasted as long as we have on this planet and grown our population to this level definitely counts as an accomplishment.
On top of that, much of that growth is actually quite recent. The human species, in their most modern form, is only about 200,000 years old. And for much of that history, our population never exceeded more than a few hundred million. We didn’t cross the billion threshold until around 1800. Just 200 years later, we’ve increased that eightfold. Numerically speaking, that’s incredible growth.
If that weren’t impressive enough, consider one other factor. For the vast majority of human history, women endured the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth without the aid of modern pain killers and medicine. That’s right. We were humping and birthing millions of humans in dirty, unsanitary conditions for centuries on end. If you’re a woman who has given birth, take a moment to think about how our ancestors endured. Also take a moment to consider how many women and children died because of those challenges.
It says a lot about humanity, especially women, that we made it to this point. You need only look at some of the natural disasters this planet is capable of to appreciate what we’ve been up against during our reign on this planet. We managed to survive, thrive, and birth our way towards 8 billion people through it all.
And if you’ve got an exceptionally dirty mind, it might also belabor just how horny the human species can be. Now, I’ll try not to get too explicit.
If I had a truly dirty mind, I could joke about how the orgasm has single-handedly endured the survival of our species.
I could joke about how great sex has to be for women to endure the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth before the advent of modern medicine.
I could joke about how nature’s wrath and constant disasters hasn’t kept people from getting horny, hooking up, and birthing more equally horny humans.
I could even joke about just how much sex we, as a species, had to have in order to get to 8 billion people.
But I’m not going to. I have as dirty mind as any straight guy who writes sexy stories, but not that dirty. Instead, I’d like to offer one simple message to this mass of humanity that we’ve created.
We made it. We’ve succeeded on a planet on which 99 percent of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. We may not have been on this planet for very long, relatively speaking. But we’ve certainly left our mark, literally and figuratively.
We’ve achieved great things.
We’ve done things no species has ever done before.
We’ve literally made islands within the sea, traveled into space, and reshaped entire landscapes to our whim.
Yes, we have been irresponsible and reckless, at times.
And yes, we still have much to learn. Being a fairly young species, we’re still maturing. We’re still charting our own path. We will encounter more obstacles. We’ll also endure plenty of setbacks, some of which will leave future generations distraught and distressed.
But we are still in position to achieve so much more. We may very well be capable of succeeding in ways no previous species on this planet has ever succeeded. We may take control of our own evolution, transcend the limits of biology, and build greater wonders than we can possibly imagine.
Those reading this may not live to see it, but you will still have played a role in helping this vast species we call humanity succeed. That’s something to be proud of. But it should also grant us perspective.
We are still very vulnerable to so many dangers, some of which we create ourselves and some of which are inherent to the universe we live in. But let’s not shy away from these dangers or the challenges they bring. Let’s also not dwell incessantly on the morbid past, but let’s not forget it either.
Every individual is so complex in their own sense of being. Add 8 billion of those individuals to the mix and the complexities become exponentially greater.
But through it all, we’re still here. We still made it this far.
There’s so much more ahead of us. Let’s make our way towards it. While one human alone can only ever achieve so much. The possibilities for 8 billion humans and counting promises to be so much greater.
Filed under Current Events, health, history
The Assassination Of John F. Kennedy And How It Changed History (In All The Wrong Ways)
For a certain people of a certain age, the date of November 22 will always carry a unique impact. No matter how many years pass or how many opinions are shared, it still affects them. It acts as a yearly reminder of a powerful moment in history that they experienced first-hand. From their perspective, the entire course of history changed on that day.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in broad daylight in front of hundreds of civilians. To say the event was historic, as well as traumatic, would be an understatement of immense proportions. There are few dates in world history that many can single out as a turning point. This is one of them.
Now, since this was such a monumental moment in history, this event has been the subject of a lot of conspiracy theories, some more absurd than others. I’m not going to delve into those rabbit holes. All I’ll say is that pretty much all of them fall apart with the slightest bit of scrutiny. They also degrade and detract from the full impact of that day.
I know this because my father has frequently told me about this day. He was still a kid in 1963. He still remembers it vividly, so much so that I can sense it still affects him to this day. He frequently recounts how they all got this dire announcement in school the afternoon it happened. He also tells me about how schools were closed the next day and how much people dreaded what might come next.
Keep in mind, this was the middle of the Cold War. For everyone alive at the time, including my dad, nuclear war could’ve broken out at any moment. For all they knew, the death of JFK was just the first shot of World War III. All they could do at this point was brace themselves.
It’s hard for anyone who didn’t live through that to appreciate that kind of dread. I know many will cite September 11, 2001 as a date of similar importance to the current generation and while I do think that too was a major turning point in history, the JFK assassination was still bigger in terms of impact.
That’s a sentiment my father has also conveyed to me. He and plenty others who remember that day said that nothing was ever the same afterwards. Before November 22, 1963, there was still this sense that everything was getting better. We, as both a country and a world, were on the right track.
We defeated the fascists in World War II.
We were making social progress with the Civil Rights Movement.
The war in Vietnam hadn’t yet become the tragedy it ultimately became.
We were even venturing into space.
Then, this happens. The President of the United States is gunned down in broad daylight. Everything action, choice, and sentiment is suddenly fueled by fear rather than hope. This notion of looking forward to the future gives way to anxiously agonizing over the present. Fear becomes distress and distress becomes anger and from anger comes chaos.
The way the 1960s played out after JFK’s death certainly took a turn. My dad also had plenty of stories to tell me about that. However, he could tie a lot of what happened back to that fateful date of November 22, 1963.
Naturally, the notion of what might have happened had JFK never been assassinated has been pondered many times and inspired many elaborate alternate history scenarios. While they may make for great stories, they still don’t change how much real people and real history is affected.
In many respects, we’re still reeling from the impact of that day. I’m no history, but I still believe that November 22, 1963 changed history for the worse. Losing the President of the United States in such a public way didn’t just shake the world. It filled everyone with dread and anxiety, which has affected us on so many levels for years to come.
We’re still dealing with many of those effects. The turmoil and chaos from that date affected geopolitics, major wars, and social trends. Since few good decisions are made in the midst of such chaos, I honestly don’t believe we as a country or a society made the best decisions we could’ve after that day. The consequences of those decisions are still being felt by many, even by those who weren’t alive that day.
It’s impossible to grasp all the ways that the JFK assassination affected history. It’s just as impossible to appreciate how it still affects our lives to this day. With each passing year, more and more of those who were alive that day either pass away or bury away those memories. As a result, many younger people don’t realize just how impactful it was.
I may not have been alive on that day, but the world I live in was shaped significantly by the events of November 22, 1963. If you’re reading this, regardless of your age, there’s a good chance that applies to you too. Our world and our history took a dark, tragic turn that day.
We can’t change it.
We can’t forget it, either.
We can only appreciate its impact, learn from it, and try to move forward.
Filed under Current Events, history, politics
Why We Should Teach The Uglier Parts Of History (And Why Avoiding It Is Pointless)
I am an American.
I am proud to be an American.
There’s no other country I’d want to be born in.
I say all while also acknowledging that America isn’t perfect. I’ve taken plenty of history classes, both in high school and in college. I’ve also sought out information about America’s past and the facts are clear. The United States of America does have some undeniably dark moments in its history. Some could be classified as outright atrocities.
It’s not wrong to state that those events happened and they were awful. In fact, I believe it’s critical for any country, nation, or community of any kind to admit their past failures and flaws. We cannot learn, grow, or improve as a society if we ignore those less favorable parts of our history. If we only ever know the good stuff, then we have no reason to improve and that only breeds complacency, arrogance, and stagnation. That’s something the world needs less of.
This brings me the controversy surrounding critical race theory. I know that just uttering that phrase in passing these days is sure to draw ire from certain crowds, some more so than others. In general, I try to avoid touching on topics like this when the outrage machine is still going full-throttle. Even when I do discuss something controversial, like abortion, I try to focus on the bigger picture.
Now, the specifics of critical race theory are too vast for me to get into. I’m certainly no expert, nor would I ever claim to be. I encourage people to investigate it themselves on Wikipedia. However, do not seek sources from the likes of PragerU, the Heritage Foundation, or any information source that claims to espouse the “truth” about Critical Race Theory.
They’re just right-wing propaganda pushers who are lying to you on behalf of their donors. They are not credible on this matter.
While I don’t see Critical Race Theory as being completely neutral either, it does have some relative themes. It gives greater scrutiny to how racism and past racist policies in America have had lasting effects on minority communities, even after the progress made during the civil rights movement.
That’s not an unreasonable approach to studying the past and present. After all, it’s undeniable that racism and its past effects still exist. If you deny that, then you’re just denying reality outright. Certain aspects of racism can’t be resolved by simply passing a law or enacting a certain policy. People and societies are just too complex.
Now, the way in which Critical Race Theory scrutinizes these issues isn’t perfect. In terms of analyzing and making sense of history, I think it doesn’t paint the clearest picture in terms of America’s racist past and how that past affects the present.
That said, I support it being taught or, at the very least, explored within a school. I think this is something we should teach kids and young people about in order to get them thinking about history, race, and the society in which they live. At the same time, I also think it exposes a critical element with respect to appreciating history and its many lessons.
The reason I’m bringing it up now is two-fold. Firstly, I think those protesting it are absurd and their reasons for criticizing critical race theory are equally absurd. Some are going so far as to try and ban it. Instead, they favor a more “patriotic” education for school age children. I put “patriotic” in quotes because there’s nothing patriotic about it. It’s just pure propaganda, plain and simple.
A true patriot doesn’t need propaganda to be proud of their country.
A true patriot loves their country, despite their flaws. Just like you do with someone you love, you don’t ignore those flaws and use them as motivation to be better.
The second reason I’m bringing it up has less to do with the political rhetoric surrounding Critical Race Theory. It’s being framed as though this is somehow redefining the story of America. It’s seen as somehow diminishing America’s greatness and ideals. Those who are blindly patriotic or excessively nationalistic are going to have a problem with that.
Now, blind and excessive nationalisms is a problem all its own. I won’t get into that, but I do feel that it highlights another important point about protesting new forms of study. In essence, those complaining about Critical Race Theory are working against their own agenda. They seem to forget that the internet still exists.
It doesn’t matter if efforts to ban Critical Race Theory succeed. It doesn’t matter if every American textbook removes all mentions of slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, or atrocities committed against Native Americans. That information is still out there. It’s on the internet and it’s easy for anyone with an internet connection to find.
In fact, by outright banning or opposing certain studies of history, it may only raise greater interest in it. Like it or not, people are going to get curious. Tell kids and teenagers that they should never learn about Critical Race Theory is only going to make them more curious. So long as they still have an internet connection, they will find that information.
That’s exactly why I’m in favor of teaching history that explores, analyzes, and dares to extrapolate from the uglier parts of history. It can do more than educate. It can also help us come to terms with our flaws and inspire us to be better.
A good example of this is the recent relevance of the Tulsa Race Massacre. There’s no getting around it. This event was a horrendous moment in American history and one that reveals just how ugly racism got in this country. Growing up, I never learned about this event. Most people probably never would’ve learned about it, had it not re-entered the news amidst recent pushes for racial justice.
This moment in history was awful. There’s no getting around that. Even if you’re an American who wasn’t alive during this event, we should still acknowledge it. We should still learn from it. That’s how we’ll get better. The past has so many painful lessons and we’ll never learn those lessons if we try to gloss over them.
Filed under Current Events, history, outrage culture, political correctness, politics
Jack’s World: How Will We Tell Future Generations About The COVID-19 Pandemic?
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a more serious video than I usually do. I started working on it a number of weeks ago. I’ve been writing about the COVID-19 pandemic off and on since it began last year. It has been depressing, to say the least. I don’t deny I have been downright dire at times.
However, the end is in sight. Having gotten my first shot of the vaccine, I can honestly say the worst is behind us. It’s not over, but it does raise a number of questions. This pandemic is going to have a ripple effect for generations. People are going to remember this. It led me to wonder how we’ll talk about it in the future. I decided to make this video as a means of offering a big picture overview.
It’s serious, but I try to make it hopeful. Enjoy!
Filed under Current Events, health, Jack's World, YouTube
Thought Experiment: What Would You Do If You Could Relive Your Life With Your Current Memories?
The older I get, the more I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed. I would’ve loved to grab my 15-year-old self by the shoulder, looked him right in the eyes, and told him that I had many wonderful experiences ahead of me. I would’ve maybe told him some winning lotto number as well, but that’s beside the point.
Most people who survived adolescents and found ways to thrive in the adult world appreciate the perspective of hindsight. It can be sobering for some, but bittersweet for others. When we’re young, ignorant, and inexperienced, everything just seems more overwhelming. We struggle to make sense of it all. You really can’t hope to understand anything without time, experience, and perspective.
I suspect most people have entertained the idea of sending messages to their younger self at some point in their lives. Even if it’s just to tell them who will win the Super Bowl this year, there’s a lot of wisdom we’d love to impart. Movies like “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day” demonstrate the power of having such hindsight. However, those movies only go so far.
It’s one thing to relive a single day with all your memories intact. An entire lifetime is on a much larger scale with far greater implications. It makes for an interesting thought experiment. Now, after a certain X-Men comic told a remarkable story with this, I’d like to pose it as a formal question.
What would you do if you could live your entire life over again with the same memories, knowledge, and experiences you have now?
It’s a question that is likely to inspire many different answers. Everyone’s life, circumstances, and experiences are different. Some people wouldn’t want to change much. They like how their lives turned out. Others would make significant changes, both for their lives and for others.
Since a scenario like this has so many implications, here are a few specifics to consider before answering this question. I’m going to try and answer it for myself, but I think it’s worth establishing a context, if only to avoid the kind of time travel paradoxes that make the timelines in “Back to the Future” so confusing.
With that in mind, here are the rules for this little experiment:
- When you’re reborn, you have all the memories you have up to this point in your life
- You’re aware that you were reborn and don’t suffer significant shock from being in a younger body
- You keep the fact that you have the knowledge of your future self secret
- You assume consciousness in your younger self at around five-years-old, which is when most children start to form lasting memories
- You can only be reborn and re-live your life once
- Your ability to recall your memories is consistent with your ability to recall general memories at this very moment
- You have no hint of knowing how different decisions affect the future course of events for yourself and the world as a whole
- The course of events still unfold as you remember them and don’t change unless you directly influence them
With those rules in mind, take a moment to contemplate how you would live your life the second go-around. What would you do initially? How would you change the course of your childhood? How would that change the course of your teenage years? What points in your life would you make radically different decisions?
For me, personally, there are many general aspects of my life that I would change, even from a young age. I would take a very different approach to how I went about everything from school to friends to my little league baseball career. Life experiences has shown me how flawed my mentality was during that time. I focused so much on outcomes over the process that it caused more frustration than growth.
I also developed a very negative outlook for much of my youth and during my teen years. In my defense, I had terrible social skills and some irrational anxieties that only became absurd with the benefit of hindsight. Armed with the experience I have now, I would’ve been a lot more hopeful and optimistic in approaching school, friends, and challenges. I think that would’ve helped me achieve more and learn more.
In terms of specifics, I freely admit that I would use my knowledge of the future for personal gain, albeit to a limited extent. I can’t remember specific lotto numbers for specific dates, but I can remember which teams won the Super Bowl and the World Series. I also remember which companies made the most gains in the stock market. As such, I would invest whatever I could in Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.
That would’ve made paying off my student loan debt a lot easier. It also would’ve spared me some very unpleasant experiences I had when it came to finding decent housing, both in college and after I graduated. Not having to worry about money would definitely have helped with a lot of things. I could use it to take additional classes, invest in my writing career, and avoid some major missteps, of which I’ve made plenty.
I imagine a lot of people would take advantage of that knowledge. Now, there are some arguments that making those kinds of investments and bets often end up changing the outcome, resulting in a time paradox of sorts. That might be the case if you randomly invested a billion dollars in Apple at a time when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, but I imagine it would take a lot to significantly change something like that.
This brings me to the most sensitive aspects of this thought experiment and one I’m sure more than a few people have already imagined. Having the benefits of hindsight means you can fix the mistakes you made in your youth, both in terms of decision and attitudes. What about decisions that might affect the entire course of history?
It’s one thing to profit from a bump in stock prices. It’s quite another to change a key moment in history. It’s the inescapable implications behind the butterfly effect. However, even movies like “Back to the Future” show that you can only affect the course of history to a limited extent. Even in the worst scenario, Marty McFly only messed up Hill Valley in “Back to the Future II.” He didn’t cause a nuclear holocaust.
If you only have your memories of the future and no other abilities beyond that, you’re still going to have trouble changing certain events. A lot of people would probably try to prevent the events of September 11th, 2001, but how would you even go about that? Would calling someone at the FBI or warning the airports be enough? Would going there and trying to stop it directly be effective?
At best, you’ll only delay it. At worst, you might get yourself killed. The same goes for any event. Say you wanted to change the outcome of the 2000 US Presidential Election or, depending on your affiliation, the 2016 Election. These events have many moving parts. There’s only so much you can do to influence them. Even if you shout the warnings from the highest rooftop, you’ll probably won’t be taken seriously.
There’s also the distinct possibility that changing these events will lead to something much worse. That’s what happened in the Stephen King novel, “11.22.63.” In the story, Jake Epping stopped the Kennedy Assassination, but that indirectly led to a nuclear war. There was even an episode of “Family Guy” that explored this concept.
It’s a difficult decision that I’m sure most would wrestle with. Personally, I would make an effort to avert something as terrible as the September 11th, 2001 attacks. I don’t know how I would go about it, but I certainly would try. I would probably do the same for things like the Columbine massacre or other school shootings, if only to save the lives that wouldn’t otherwise be saved.
As for other events, it’s hard to say and even harder to know the implications. If someone has a specific method they would use, please share them in the comments. I think they’re worth discussing.
These are just some of the issues you would face if you had a chance to relive your life all over again. Hindsight offers many benefits and perspectives, but it also comes with risks. You might be able to avoid the mistakes you know about, but you also might end up making others you didn’t anticipation and those could be far worse.
It’s still an interesting though to consider. As we get older, our perspective on the past and present changes considerably. We can never know how we would’ve acted with some added foresight. I like to think that I, along with most people, would’ve used it to become better.
Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, philosophy, Thought Experiment
The COVID-19 Pandemic: One Year Later
At this time last year, the world was a very different place. There’s a running joke that people now refer to this as “the before times,” but in retrospect, it’s no laughing matter. The world, as we knew it, before the COVID-19 pandemic might as well have been a different universe. Honestly, I look back at those times with mixed emotions now.
Back then, we could go to a crowded movie theater and not feel unsafe.
Back then, we could go to a restaurant without a mask and not feel at risk.
Back then, we could go to a concert or sporting event and enjoy being surrounded by thousands of cheering fans.
Back then, we could decide to travel on a whim, going wherever we pleased without concern about what was closed or cancelled.
I long for those times, as well. I miss them as much as everyone else. Even with all the encouraging news about vaccines and improved treatment, the world is a long way from returning to those fanciful times. Some wonder if we’ll ever go back. I hope we do, but I don’t want to dwell too much on that.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because, here in America, we’re nearing the one-year mark for one things really went south. The COVID-19 pandemic may have begun in late 2019, but the world didn’t really start feeling the effects until February 2020. That’s when the news started to get scary and dire. That’s also when things started shutting down, from major sports to major events.
However, it really didn’t sink in until March 2020. That’s when it became painfully clear. This was not going away quickly. This was not some storm that would pass. It was not going to go away after a few weeks, despite what some claimed. It was when the harsh reality sank in. The pandemic was here and our lives were never going to be the same.
I remember where I was at this time last year. I was having coffee with my mother on a Sunday morning. She too had been watching the news. We were both concerned, but didn’t know just how bad it was going to get. On that same day, I started getting notices from friends and family. The next day, the state made it official.
Everything was being locked down. Schools were closing. Movie theaters were closing. Everything that wasn’t essential was being locked down. People had to either start teleworking or lose their jobs completely. Nobody could travel outside their state. Some states even began stopping people with out-of-state plates from entering. It was that serious.
It happened so fast. In just a few days, the world as we knew it shut down. We didn’t know how long it would last. We didn’t know how bad it was going to get, but it got pretty damn bad.
To date, over 2.5 million people have died from this pandemic. Millions more have been sickened and left to suffer. Numbers like that are impossible to wrap your head around. This pandemic crossed borders, cultures, and classes of all kinds. It didn’t matter what you believed in or who you voted for. You were still vulnerable.
It’s hard to overstate how much this pandemic has changed our world in the past year, so I’m not going to try. I don’t doubt that it will have a major place in future history books. It will also be a traumatic moment in our collective memories.
Regardless of your age or background, you’ve felt the effects of this pandemic. This past year has seared itself in your memory for all the wrong reasons. We’re at a point where we can barely remember what the world was like before all this happened. It’s a painful reality, but one we cannot and should not ignore.
I’ll definitely remember this past year. No matter how long I live, I suspect I’ll feel the effects of this year until my dying days. I don’t claim to know what will happen in years to come or how much the world will change from here on out. I just know that, one year ago, the world as I knew it changed forever.
We all took it for granted. We can look back on it fondly, but let’s not dwell on it too much. We can’t change the past. We can only effect the present.
Filed under Current Events, health, Jack Fisher's Insights, real stories
Remembering (And Learning From) The Cuban Missile Crisis In 2020
I know 2020 has been historically awful.
I know this year will leave an unmistakable scar on countless many for multiple generations.
I know it seems like the world, as we once knew and took for granted, is ending and is never coming back.
I’m living this year-long nightmare with the rest of you. I’m experiencing all the bleak news, life disruptions, and major cancellations. For the rest of my life, no matter how it unfolds, I’ll remember 2020 and how it felt like the world was falling apart. While I don’t deny it will recover, albeit slowly, we will move forward.
At the same time, I think it helps to offer a little perspective. As bad as this year has been and as dire as things seem, you can’t definitively say this is the worst it’s ever been. That’s hyperbole and hyperbole is rarely accurate or helpful. To help make this point, I’d like to remind everyone of a real historical event in which the world almost did actually end.
That event is the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s also a wholly relevant event because, as of this writing, we’re entering the third week of October. That puts us right within that critical timeframe between October 15th and October 27th, 1962. During those fateful days, the crisis unfolded. You don’t need to be an expert in history to appreciate how close we came to nuclear war.
The specifics of the crisis are well-known. The USSR had shipped missiles with nuclear warheads into communist Cuba. The United States, feeling threatened, demanded those missiles be withdrawn. Tensions ensued. Diplomatic and military preparations were made. Every hour counted. Every decision was critical. One wrong move and millions would die in nuclear hellfire.
At one point, it came down to the decision of a single human being on a Russian sub. His name is Vasili Arkhipov and I’ve mentioned him before. It’s not an exaggeration to say that his decision not to fire nuclear-armed torpedoes in response to depth charges prevented nuclear war. We really were that close. This video nicely explains the situation.
Personally, I probably owe that man my life. My father was just kid at the time, but he, my grandmother, and grandfather lived just outside of Washington DC at the time. To offer some perspective, they were less than a 30-minute drive from National Mall and that’s accounting for traffic.
If nuclear war broke out, it’s a given that DC would be among the first targets hit. Had the missiles started flying, my entire family would’ve been among those millions of dead. I wouldn’t be here and it’s doubtful that most of the people reading this wouldn’t be here. Unlike a deadly pandemic, it wouldn’t have been a natural disease. Our destruction would’ve been our own doing.
It all unfolded in the span of two weeks. Think about that, relative how skewed our concepts of time have become in 2020. In just two weeks in 58 years, we almost destroyed ourselves and our entire civilization. We were that close to the brink, but we got through it.
It was tense. It took some key decisions from men like Vasili Arkhipov, John F. Kennedy, and Nikita Kruzchev to make it through in one peace, but we made it. There were plenty of opportunities to mess up or make the wrong decisions, but we didn’t. That’s why we’re here in 2020, alive and complaining about having to wear a mask in a restaurant.
Take a moment to appreciate that context.
Take another to appreciate how we moved forward from that event.
After the crisis, both sides of the Iron Curtain went to great lengths to avoid a situation like that. The world shrunk in the sense that communication became more critical. Countries and communities needed to communicate with one another to make sure nothing got overlooked, lost in translation, or mistook.
When there are nuclear weapons in play, you literally cannot afford to make mistakes.
Those were hard lessons for everyone. That’s why I have some sliver of hope that the scars from 2020 will teach us similar lessons. This pandemic has shown just how fragile our civilization still is. It also shows that the deadly forces of nature are apolitical. They don’t care about your ideology, race, or beliefs. They’ll hit us just as hard. They’ll hurt us just as much.
Pandemics don’t give a damn about borders. They don’t give a damn about divisions. They’re as chaotic as a nuclear explosion. They’ll burn and scar anything that gets in their path. We can’t negotiate or bullshit our way out of it. The only way we get through it is by cooperation, compassion, and understanding.
It’s been 58 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. It left scars on a generation, but those scars ensured we worked harder to avoid nuclear war. I sincerely hope that the scars left by this pandemic will teach a new generation how to cooperate and how to get through a global crisis like this.
Those hopes may seem overly ambitious, given how divided we still are. I believe our desire to not live in a world ravaged by disease or nuclear war will motivate us to unite in the long run.
Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, politics
Remembering (And Celebrating) Your First Email Address
People of a certain age still remember what life was like before the internet. Trying to describe that age to someone under the age of 21 is like trying to describe a lost civilization. Some just can’t wrap their head around the idea that getting information involved using books, asking a professional, or just giving up entirely.
I consider myself lucky. I do remember the pre-internet days, but for the vast majority of my life, I’ve had access to it. I also came from a family that embraced it fairly early. I had access to a computer long before some of my friends. We didn’t entirely know what to do with it, but I loved exploring it and the digital world it offered.
It culminated, so to speak, when I finally got to make my first email account. That might not seem like a big deal now, but you have to understand that this was a time when few people had access to the internet, let alone an email address. We still called each other on the phone. I’ll give teenagers a moment to stop cringing.
That first email address was mostly a novelty for me. It was also kind of tedious to set up. It was an AOL address, back during an era when AOL ruled the internet. I didn’t know what I’d use it for. This was around 1997. The internet was still such a novelty. We didn’t realize at the time how revolutionary it would be.
Hindsight has revealed plenty, but I can still say with pride that I have that old email address. It’s still active. I still use it regularly. It’s not the center of my internet world anymore, but I kind of take comfort that I’m still using this email address that I set up before high school.
That’s not the case for most of the people I know. Aside from email that was set up exclusively for work, most say they don’t use that first email address they created. For some, it has long since been deactivated. I can’t say I blame them. Some of those early email addresses were clunky and hard to remember.
Those that still have their first email address, and regularly use it, tend to have a unique perspective on the internet. Even those younger than me treat it differently from all the other email addresses they have. Considering how some people have dozens, that’s quite a feat.
With that in mind, I’d like you to take a moment to recount your first internet experiences. It might just help you appreciate how far you’ve come in this digital world we’ve all come to know so well.
What was the first email address you ever created? What did you use it for?
Did you realize at the time why it was so important?
Do you still use that first email address?
How many email addresses do you have in total?
How many have you abandoned or closed?
How much does email impact your day-to-day life?
For young people, these questions may be a bit harder to answer. There’s an entire generation coming of age that has always lived in a world that has the internet. For them, having an internet connection is akin to having clothes. It’s a necessity to function in the current world.
For those in my age range or older, it’s easier to take a broader view of how the internet has impacted your life. They’re still difficult questions to answer, albeit in a unique way. We can remember what life was like without it. Whether you remember that period fondly or not is entirely personal, but there’s no denying the extent of the impact.
I encourage anyone reading this to appreciate this perspective. Take a moment, if you can, to think about that first email address you had and how it impacted your life. Regardless of your age, it helps you see just how far you’ve come and that’s worth celebrating.
Filed under philosophy, Thought Experiment