Outrage season: Overreaction and Fickleness
“When did we get so fickled and sensitive?” asked my 60-year-old uncle. “People used to be tougher and not cry every time they didn’t get their way”. I threw the question right back at him. “Why are you so fickled towards this generation?” He started to ignore that and gave me a lengthy epic about how he and the family used to struggle just to do the bare necessities. He mentioned he had to cross rivers and mountains to get to school-a 15–20 mile trip every day. The boasting of previous generations seemed apparent in his eyes.
But the fact is that every generation had fickleness and was outraged over little things-they just weren’t publicized for the entire world to see. The creation and adaptation of spreading information have put “outrage season” in full view.
Perhaps it’s recency bias or over coverage of mainstream media, but this generation has been labeled “soft” for a myriad of reasons. When things get tough, this generation will complain or get certain things canceled to get their way-as proclaimed by others. I’m not here to defend anyone, but I’m here to show that there has been an overreaction all throughout history. Most of the time, it cost human lives unnecessarily.
The Pig War of 1859 started with a slaughtered pig. 1
The first and only shots of the Pig War came on June 15, 1859, when an American farmer named Lyman Cutlar gunned down a British-owned black boar after he discovered the animal rooting through his potato patch. The ensuing argument over the dead hog increased tensions between the two groups of settlers, and Cutlar was eventually threatened with arrest.
The Stray Dog war resulted in many deaths. Here’s a quick summary of what happened 2:
The incident was the culmination of a long period of hostility between Greece and Bulgaria, which had been at odds since the Second Balkan War in the 1910s. Tensions finally boiled over in October 1925, when a Greek soldier was shot after allegedly crossing the border into Bulgaria while chasing after his runaway dog.
The shooting became a rallying cry for the Greeks, who soon after invaded Bulgaria and occupied several villages. They were even set to commence shelling the city of Petrich when the League of Nations finally intervened and condemned the attack. An international committee later negotiated a ceasefire between the two nations, but not before the misunderstanding had resulted in the deaths of some 50 people.
The Salem Witch Hunt of 1692, where several girls put many people to their death by accusing them of witchcraft 3. Perhaps one of the first forms of “cancellation” but with extreme consequences.
In early 1692, several girls became ill, and their doctor announced that the cause was supernatural: They had been bewitched. The girls accused some of the village’s most vulnerable residents of being witches who had cursed them.
Hysteria ensued, and more and more members of the village were accused of witchcraft, arrested, and tried. In total, 20 people were executed for witchcraft or refusing to confess.
Though historians still debate the immediate causes of the girls’ sickness and the subsequent witch hunt, town politics and family feuds likely propelled the event.
According to historian Frances Hill:
“It’s absolutely obvious that those who were being hanged were the enemies of the grown-ups or the girls who were doing the naming.”
We forget that atrocities have happened for hundreds of years (even thousands) because of overreaction, misunderstandings, lack of communication, fear, etc. This new behavior in 2021 is nothing new. When people are met with resistance, instead of trying to understand, it’s simply easier to denounce and put up as much fight as possible to maintain the status quo.
It depends on the era… right?
You can make the argument that all of these situations are conditional because of the era. Perhaps if everyone had the power to communicate instantly via cellphone, all of this wouldn’t have happened? Sadly, we’ve always been the species to jump to conclusions. Again, whether it’s because seeking truth takes more effort, and deciphering the “facts” into our own contorted view is easy, everyone in history has reacted the same.
Although living conditions have tremendously improved (I’d argued it’s better to be homeless in 2021 than to be an aristocrat in the Middle Ages), our type of thinking hasn’t. Tribalism has allowed us to dominate the planet but that same mentality hasn’t served us too well when it comes to overreactions or emotional stability. It’s very challenging to go against your group, and it’s even harder to detach yourself from the tunnel-vision mindset and seek out all other prospective. It’s easy to talk about it, but imagine losing a very close (or what you thought was) group of friends because you have different political viewpoints. It’s crushing to mind and body-often can leave you in a depressive state. We are social creatures by nature and to maintain order means you’ll have to flock wherever the herd goes. Imagine thinking the crusade was a ridiculous idea-you’ll be slaughtered on the spot.
Stop comparing and learn
As much fun as it is to ridicule the previous and current generations, I think it’s best to learn from them. Sure the previous generation can’t work with technology like the current, but the same can be said for more hands-on work. We should take this as an opportunity to learn and understand how generations deal with their problems. I remembered a story of how my Uncle would work 3 jobs to pay for his student loans, and never got time to enjoy any of his hobbies or to build relationships. It’s a regret he has to this day. We can learn from the past but don’t forget that we can also learn from the future through asking ourselves questions. We know more than we think we do, we just don’t sit down enough and walk us through these guiding questions.
There’s no true principle on how to not overreact and keep calm through any situation. However, allowing yourself to be swayed by public opinion, or to be swept through with emotions because you don’t agree with something isn’t the way to go either. Remember that you don’t have to agree with something and still be able to learn something. The more you know, the less you’ll be taken surprise.
Let’s start thinking more and reacting less.