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Some rights reserved - Jesper Sehested

Living in Fear

By: Jack Amos

We live in a period of fear. It is unlike anything else that the human race has previously endured, specifically in Western society. While it may not be as aggressive or imminent as times gone past such as the world wars, nuclear conflict, and economic depressions, it is more seeping and more widespread. This is because our current period is simply indescribable. Without the immediate and blatant commonality that used to grip entire nations, people are not constantly facing death, or at least the thought of it. As a direct result of this, they have devalued their lives. The fear that is rampant among not only the youth of today, but also the aging generations, is subjective to the individual. While we all endure the same threats - economic instability, loss of employment, familial disintegration, mental and physical disease, and of course, irrational personal fears - how these anxieties manifest themselves varies from person to person.

Every single person in my peer group has confided in me that they live in constant fear. It is a subtle undercoat to their everyday lives, and while it is not strong enough to render them incapacitated, it is constant enough to continually wear down the very fabric of being. Given the fact that as a species we are all facing a unifying threat, the covid-19 virus, it is important to recognize the fact that the younger generation has been unable to live traditional adult lives. We are now confined to our homes, filling the majority of our time with work or school. Occasionally we socialize with close friends or partners, but other than these brief interactions, the majority of our population has begun their adult life in isolation.

We cannot travel, we cannot party, we cannot attend classes, and for the most part, finding a decent job is almost impossible.

This leads to the budding adults of the twenty-first century asking the question: is this it? Is this really how the entirety of adult society lives and functions? They wake up alone, they go to work alone, they work and see colleagues, and then they go back home alone. Extracurricular activities are suspended - instead they are forced to fill their time with solitary ventures, such as running, hiking, or smoking pot. The latter is on an extreme rise in popularity because, if I may be perfectly frank, what the fuck else are we going to do?

And so the fear is this: yes. This is it. This is how you are expected to spend the rest of your adult life. Working, spending, saving, sleeping, until you die. Enduring the moment until the relief of not having to exist anymore finally enters your essence.

It is no wonder that suicidal ideations are on the rise. Older academics and researchers have attributed this spike in debilitating mental illness to phones and technology, while the regular populous assumes that it’s a romanticisation of suicide in popular culture and entertainement. I argue that both of these theories are mistaken. Suicidal ideation instead stems from the feeling of one being trapped, of having grown up with expectations placed on one's shoulders and being reassured that structures are in place to take care of you, and that the system you are migrating into is the right one, that it is tried and proven to work.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work anymore, and this is the disheartening realization that is leading to the underlying current of fear that is so prominent in everyday lives. This is the fear, this gnawing unhappiness that has spread from the old to the young. Now that a pandemic threatens the public safety of practically everyone, young people are no longer able to distract themselves with the typical joys and milestones that accompany youth.

But this fear is not just reserved for the young. The older generations are now reflecting back on their lives and the decisions that they made, while also looking at the pile of broken marriages and debt that they’ve racked up behind them, and are starting to think to themselves, “Huh, maybe we should have done things slightly differently”. The way that we live as a collective is not only broken, but it is also unsustainable, both from an environmental and social standpoint. People are not leaving their lives fulfilled. The up and coming generations are noticing this, and overall, everyone is searching for something different. Something more.

They are searching for the most basic human right, to not live their lives in fear.

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