What Is Everyone So Worried About?

Everyone is so gloomy about the future these days. Polls show that most people think we’re on the wrong path, and everyone walks around looking like the president just ate their dogs. We look at the sluggish economy, the nearly $16 trillion in debt, the crumbling world situation, and the sudden outbreak of bath-salt-fueled cannibalism, and we all start to feel like we’re nearing the end times. But do any of us stop to think what exactly it is we’re worried about? Like, if we never get a handle on any of this — unemployment stays high and kids get even fatter — what is the big, huge bad thing that’s going to happen?

For instance, what’s the worst that could happen to us if we never get a handle on our finances — if we just keep spending and spending while the economy crumbles further? I guess in the absolute worst-case scenario, we’d have a complete economic meltdown, our money would become worthless, our government would collapse, and our infrastructure would fall apart. Basically, all of civilization would be destroyed.

Again, that is the absolute worst case — it is somewhat possible that things not as bad as that could happen. But even if the worst does happen — and modern civilization does end —  what does that mean for us? Well, America still has plenty of forests where we can collect branches to build crude shelters and hunt animals to skin for clothing and eat for food. So even if things are as bad as we can possibly imagine, we have this nice fallback option of becoming hunter-gatherers again. People might even enjoy their new, simpler living conditions. People do like camping. And the movie The Hunger Games was pretty popular. Plus, this would pretty much end childhood obesity. And one day, soon after we start living this way, we’ll all say, “Wow, we sure were spoiled with all that running water, electricity, and no need to fear wild animals. Weren’t we silly about that?” And we’ll have a good laugh. Well, not all of us — just those who make it past the first winter. So a few of us. A few of us will have a good laugh.

So, the debt and the economy aren’t big enough deals to worry about; it’s not the end of the world if those don’t work out — at least not the complete end. So what else do we have to worry about? Rogue states like Iran and North Korea getting nuclear weapons? Let’s say we continue to be ineffective in stopping them from getting weapons of mass destruction — that they ignore all the sternly worded letters we send them and continue to misbehave even after we put them in time out — then what would be the absolute worst that could happen? Well, as crazy as they are, they could explode a nuclear warhead on U.S. soil. Once more, this is the worst case — there’s some chance this won’t even happen. But if it does, how bad is that?

A one-megaton blast would create a firestorm covering a hundred square miles… but the U.S. is about 3.8 million square miles, so by far, most of the country wouldn’t be caught in a deadly firestorm. And let’s say our first worst-case scenario has already happened, and we’re all now forest-dwelling savages. Then our nation could get hit with a nuclear bomb, and most of the country wouldn’t even notice. We’d just go along trying to kill deer with pointy sticks, as usual. So instead of these worst-case scenarios stacking, they kind of cancel each other out.

So there’s a lot out there that people worry about, but it’s not that bad when you really think about it. I’m optimistic for future generations. I mean, I’m not optimistic for our kids, as they’ll directly inherit our mess. Nor for our grandkids, who will get it even worse. And if the country is still around long enough, I’m just glad I’m not our great-grandkids — oh boy, are they going to have crazy lives. But I am optimistic for generations far in the future. Maybe ones not even of the same species — perhaps bird people who arise after the collapse of mankind. For they’ll dig up the remains of our civilization and piece together what happened from fossilized iPods and long-buried “Hope and Change” campaign buttons and hopefully learn a lot from our mistakes so they don’t repeat them. See, this all works out in the long run. But not the long, long run, as eventually the sun will explode and swallow the earth.

The point is, let’s not worry so much. Eventually everything works itself out. So keep your chin up, practice your basic survival skills, and if you have any good wisdom, get it to those who’ll need it by putting it on something that can survive being buried for thousands of years.