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SpaceObama t1_irrwb8x wrote

Ancient peoples had their own apocalyptic predictions that they believed just as much as ad we do the heat death of the universe. They still said “oh well” and went on with their day.


byebyecivilrights t1_irrxf9f wrote

Yes, you're absolutely right, but I'm specifically thinking about my great grandmother who grew up in the great depression. Her response to negativity was always "oh well, let's keep moving forward anyway." But mine has always been "oh well, might as well give up -- if I die I die."

That's the specific difference I'm interested in. Although that might just be me.


Justicar-terrae t1_irsic5z wrote

You can find that same "Screw it. If I die, I die" attitude all throughout history.

Look at how people reacted to prevalent capital punishment back when it was widespread. There are accounts of child pickpockets in London plying their trade amongst audiences gathered to watch other child pickpockets being hanged. In Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast about capital punishment, he reads a letter written by a wealthy French woman describing how her friend did a decent job of not crying or screaming during her beheading for some trivial offense; the letter reads like the beheading was simply a casual affair. In various Roman and Greek historical accounts, people often treat their imminent executions as matter-of-fact chores. Cicero, Socrates, Regulus, and Agrippina come to mind; ditto early Christian martyrs (though they are least believed in an afterlife).

Look at how people treated warfare. For example, in the early gunpowder era there was a volunteer group in most armies called the forlorn hope whose job was to run straight at an entrenched enemy to make them fire their already loaded muskets and cannons. After the forlorn hope did their job as cannon fodder, the rest of the army would advance while the enemy reloaded and reorganized. What's surprising is that the forlorn hope, the name of which made clear how screwed its members were, was an all volunteer job yet frequently saw repeat members. There are letters from some of these repeat volunteers describing the absolute horrors of being in the forlorn hope and watching their friends in front and all around turn into red mist when hit with cannon fire or musket volleys. There were some soldiers who just didn't give a fuck whether they lived or died.

Look at the cold war nihilism, born from a common belief that the whole world was going up in mushroom clouds any day now. There are songs from the time poking fun at the inevitable doom. For examples: and and

And those are just off the top of my head. People in the past were much like us. Any time things got really bad, bad to the point where hope seemed a distant memory, people have been able to put on a "eh, fuck it" face and keep on trudging on autopilot.


byebyecivilrights t1_irsr8hy wrote

True! I think we as human beings all have a tendency to think we're special lol


riptide81 t1_iruq2ke wrote

I honestly think part of it is living in relative luxury. For past generations the threats we’re much more immediate. If you didn’t keep moving forward during the Great Depression death was a very real possibly not just abstract melancholy. We can live in our heads and be complacent while still getting our basic needs met.

It’s gets harder the further back you go. Did you ever read a historical biography and note how many children they lost to illness yet somehow kept going?

It was basically only the second half of the 20th century on (depending on demographic) that a large number of regular people experienced fairly dependable comfort and security.


7718760119 t1_irs866r wrote

Wow I thought I was alone in my newfound nihilism. Glad I'm not!


SapientRaccoon t1_irumc4w wrote

They also had to endure more people around them dying if accidents and disease, and also a higher child mortality rate. They were closer to death, saw it more often.


myrddyna t1_irv4go4 wrote

> Ancient peoples had their own apocalyptic predictions

meh their predictions were that there would be a flood (which would contaminate water wells and if you couldn't find clean water in three days, your tribe died), or a drought (kills off food growing, so your tribe will starve, or die of dehydration moving to a new area), or just 'we'll be attacked by a rival tribe that will kill us!'

These are easy to predict, and foolishly attributed to the gods or prophecy. Today, we know a lot more, and the predictions are actually based in science, and are much much more accurate as to the greater future of mankind.

Us saying, "oh well" and going with our day is going to end with our extinction, as a species, rather than a tribe.