But guess what, the human race has never, ever had it better! Now that's a subject for another blog post. Today I want to highlight a few ways in which human beings encountered far trickier situations than we ever have and came through them (relatively) unscathed.
The Ice Age
'Oh, the world's getting a tad warmer is it? That must be so scary for you. Ice is melting is it? Fuck me, run for the hills' is probably what your ancestor who lived through the Ice Age would sarcastically say to you. Really though, think about it. Our winters are a bit rainier and our summers are a bit warmer.
Now imagine you're a Neanderthal man and it starts snowing one day and doesn't stop. You're wrapped in a few Sabre Toothed Tiger furs and most likely live in a cave. That ladies and gentleman is what you define as fucked. Every single day of your life going forward is going to be a matter of life or death. Can't find somewhere warm? You're dead. Can't find any food because all the animals have frozen to death? You're dead. Get snowed in your cave? Yep. you guessed it, you're dead as a dodo.
And yet, through this unimaginable struggle your ancestor, my ancestor and the ancestor of that fit girl that works at Boots survived. So buy a new rain mac and invest in some air conditioning. Global warming's gunna be a walk in the park.
The Black Death
Tell you what, bird flu was a bit touch and go wasn't it? When that one dead swan turned up in Scotland I thought it was the end of days. Don't even get me started on swine flu either. I'm not belittling the deaths of 475 people but it was hardly the pandemic we were led to believe it could become. Now 75 to 200 million, that's a more impressive number. That's how many lives it's thought the Black Death of 1346 - 1350 claimed. That's almost unfathomable. It reduced the population of Europe by between 30 - 60% for christs sake!
Now imagine the scene, your whole family is covered in horrible, black, puss filled buboes that burst and piss blood. Their fingers and toes then start to turn black and rot away whilst they vomit blood and sweat buckets. Within two to seven days they're all dead, all of them. If you're not lucky enough to have died yourself you have to deal with beaked creatures removing your families bodies and burying them in mass graves. As an added kick in the bollocks, if you belong to any ethnic or religious minority chances are you'll be blamed for the outbreak and forced from what's left of your home. If you don't you'll be left to scratch an existence while the world recovers. Sounds ideal...
The World Wars
For a couple of generations now the Western World hasn't really known war. Sure there have been forays to distant lands by our salaried military personnel but they've paled in comparison to what our Grandparents and Great Grandparents endured. 122 million lives were lost in both World Wars combined. That my not be as many as those bastard fleas managed to kill all those years ago but it's still pretty fucking scary.
So what did your Great Grandparents have to endure during WW1? If your Great Grandad was of age (or not) he would have ended up in some form of military service. Whether that was going over the top at The Somme, manning a gun at The Battle of Jutland or flying a frightfully unreliable plane called a Sopwith Pup during Bloody April it's likely he would have frequently found himself in mortal danger. Your Great Grandma could well have served as a nurse not too far back from one of the many front lines. She could have come under artillery fire and would most likely have seen some nasty stuff. Or she may have been at home, in the UK, trying to dodge bombs dropped by massive fuck off German Zeppelins.
Grandad and Grandma had it even worse mind. Heard of D-Day? How about Operation Market Garden? The Battle of Britain? Maybe the Battle of the Mediterranean? Yeah, there were plenty of opportunities for your Grandad to buy the farm. Things weren't much better for your Grandma either. If she wasn't working in munitions factories slowly turning yellow and dying she was busy trying to avoid huge Nazi bombing raids that dropped over 100 thousand tonnes of high explosives before the war was over. Starting to feel slightly less pissed off about cracking your phone screen?
The Great Depression
If I had £1 for every time some emotionless talking head on the TV said the word 'recession' or 'green shoots' I would be out chilling with Dan Bilzerian in Vegas right now. But, unfortunately I don't. Instead all I have is a headache borne out of incredulity for the tripe these so called 'experts' feel the need to spout. Ask an investment banker from the 1930's if what we were/are experiencing is a recession and he would most likely have laughed heartily in your face.
The Great Depression was a real economic downturn. National trade was decimated by 50%, unemployment rates rose to as high as a third of the population of some countries and people were forced to dig up wooden street cobbles just to stay warm. Not only that, the conditions that the depression caused in Weimar Germany (they were terrible) supported, if not completely instigated, the rise to power of one of the most insidious men to have ever walked the earth. For all of you who didn't pay attention in history class I'm talking about Adolf Hitler. So the next time you feel hard done by because you're a bit brassic and can't afford to go out be thankful for the fact you're not eating dead horse just to get by (unless you're a fan of Findus lasagne that is).
It was a right piss take when that volcano popped its cork in Iceland and peoples flights to Zante and Magaluf were grounded weren't it! Completely inconsiderate. Pompeii as well. That was a right blag. As you can see volcanoes have a tendency of fucking up peoples days. But no volcano, in the history of volcanoes, has ever fucked up as many peoples days as Toba. (What a badass name by the way!) So sit back, pull out your sack and let me tell you the story of Toba.
About 70,000 B.C. (that's Before Christmas) there was a big bad volcano called Toba who lived in Sumatra. In fact, he was the biggest baddest volcano that ever existed. Toba had dealt pretty well with the lack of Christmases. Every year he would sit there longingly, waiting for Jesus to be born so people could then give each other presents in his name. Unfortunately for Toba, and the human race, it would be a long time until Jebus was born to die for people's sins.
One cold night on December 24th Toba was watching the sky for Santa's sleigh like he always did. He'd had a really bad day because all the other volcanoes were picking on him for being so big. Just as he was about to turn in for the night, disappointed as always, one of the smaller volcanoes started shouting, "Hey Toba, look up there! Is that Santa?!"
Excitedly Toba stared into the dark night sky, his big fiery eyes darting around for any glimpse of the jolly man and his reindeer. But alas, he saw no such thing and instead heard jeers and laughter coming from the smaller volcanoes. One by one they started to chant 'made you look, made you look, made you look.' Rage swept up through Tobas molten lava torso and with an almighty roar he threw 650 miles of molten rock into the air.
This eruption coated South Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian and South China Seas in a 6 inch layer of ash that can still be seen today. This was basically a big 'fuck you' to anything living thing within the eruption radius and a middle finger to everything else on the planet. It's likely the eruption dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted rain fall, contaminated or entirely blocked waterways and covered all low lying plant life in range in scorching hot ash. At this point in time human beings were still restricted to the African continent only, just across the ocean from Toba, so they would have felt the brunt of this.
So, our ancestors were left without food, drinkable water or sunlight for almost six years. In addition to this the eruption probably made an already chilly ice age (yep, another one) even colder by bouncing warming sunlight back into the atmosphere. Yeah, that's right, ice age and super massive volcanic eruption... There are a few estimates knocking about but it's thought that the human race fell to something between 40 to a 1,000 reproductive adults during this time. To put that into perspective there are 3,000 wild tigers left on the planet and they're classed as critically endangered. So, yeah, the human race was really, really critically endangered.
For a slightly more serious, but no less entertaining, account of Toba's eruption check out this post.
So, there you have it. Five examples of times when the human race has faced far more worrying situations than you ever have. So, next time your bird fucks off or you lose your job be thankful for the fact it's warm, you don't have the plague, you've not been conscripted into a god awful war, the economy hasn't taken an unfathomable nosedive and that there's more than 1,000 reproductive adults knocking about (imagine how hard it would be for you to pull if there wasn't!)
Tune in at some point in the future for that list of ways the human race has never had it better. Don't hold your breath though, these things take time to write. Peace!
Written by Ryan Hill