Living Through History: Why Our Generation is the Luckiest By Far

So I saw Lincoln today.

If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll know that it isn’t the usual sweeping biopic that tries to distill the entire life of the president in under two hours. The movie instead focused on the days leading up to the voting of the House of Representatives on the Thirteenth Amendment, which would abolish slavery and involuntary servitude in the US, except as punishment for a crime.

The movie had no action scenes or whatever, but it still conveyed a sense of emotion that only Spielberg–helped along with the awesome Daniel Day Lewis–could pull off. And the Thirteenth Amendment is no small thing either–it pushed for human rights in an age where human rights was but a distant and lofty idea. I teared up during the movie, no lie.

Anyway, after the movie, while people were filing out of the cinema, I heard a girl say to her friend, “OMG that was so great! I really felt like I’m part of history. I wish I’d lived through historic moments like that too!

I literally stopped in my tracks.

You wish you’d lived through historic moments like that too? Where have you been the past twenty years? I’m barely twenty but I could honestly say that I’m lucky to be part of this generation, a generation that has seen the world around it change so much in the quintessential blink of an eye.

Short of rubbing that girl’s face in a laundry list of global and national events of the past two decades, I’m just gonna rub your face in it, so you’d realize just how lucky you are. Let’s take the last twenty years year by year, shall we?

Release of Nelson Mandela (February 11, 1990)

In line with the events of Lincoln cited above, racial discrimination didn’t disappear overnight. You know this, everyone knows this. Nelson Mandela knows this. After all, he was jailed for 27 years in various prisons because he fought against apartheid in South Africa. His release served as a turning point away from racial discrimination in the African region (and, eventually, the world). After getting freed, Mandela did not stop. He worked tirelessly to end apartheid policies all over the world, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

What did you do today?

Collapse of the Soviet Union (1991)

The Soviet Union has been one of the most powerful forces in global politics in the last century, and barely four decades ago it rivaled the United States when it came to nuclear power. But inside this hulking giant lurked multiple republics that strained at the leash of Kremlin control. All this tension climaxed on August 1991, with Boris Yeltsin–president of the Russian Federation–standing on top of a tank, calling for Gorbachev to return. This proved too much for the Union, and it eventually dissolved itself on Christmas Day 1991 with Gorbachev’s resignation.

Bosnian War (1992)

Okay, I’m cheating a bit here. The Bosnian War started in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs surrounded Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, and bombarded it with constant artillery fire. What I’m interested in with this event, however, is the Srebrenica massacre, which occurred July 1995. Also known as the Srebrenica genocide, this was when ethnic Serb troops attacked what was supposed to be a safe area of the United Nations and massacred around 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described this event as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

Power Rangers (August 1993)

Do I really need to explain this one?

Rwandan Genocide (April-July 1994)

In April 6, 1994, Rwandan president Habyariman–a Hutu–was assassinated. This served as the catalyst for a hundred day free-for-all killing spree that left almost a million people dead. The violence centered on the age-old tension between Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda. Reports of Rwandans bludgeoned to death or sliced open with machetes and left to bleed to death on the streets abounded. Until now, this event is a staple of political science studies, as I’m sure most of my classmates know.

OJ Simpson Trial (January to October, 1995)

I’m not entirely sure why this deserves to be in this spot (the Oscar Pistorius story is very similar to this, but it’s not like it’s garnering the same kind of attention) but one can’t deny that the OJ Simpson trial was gossip staple that year. OJ Simpson, for those too young to know, was a former American football start who led police on a chase in his white Ford Bronco, was eventually arrested, and then charged with the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. The media ate this story up, with live coverage of the legal proceedings. Everyone else eventually jumped on the bandwagon, and the trial itself sparked debates regarding race, celebrity status, and the fairness of the justice system.

Cloning of Dolly the Sheep (July 5, 1996)

Dolly is a sheep, but she’s no ordinary sheep. She’s the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell. Previously, all science could do with cloning was grow stuff from embryos, which is mighty hard and not that reliable. With Dolly’s unveiling, of course, ethical dilemmas were raised. Can we do this with humans? Will it be wrong to do it with humans? Can we grow parts rather than whole living things, and if we can, how can this be used in medicine? How far can we go without playing god?

Hong Kong Handover (July 1, 1997)

The British have had Hong Kong as a colony for over a hundred and fifty years. In 1997, it finally handed Hong Kong over to China, an event the British call ‘The Handover’, but is more commonly known in mainland China as ‘The Return’ or ‘The Reunification’. Since then, Hong Kong has operated separately from the mainland government, but is still technically part of China (especially with China’s ‘One China Policy’). This ‘one country, two systems’ formula has sparked a lot of debate, particularly in terms of sovereignty and international recognition.

Also, Princess Di died in 1997. Just thought you ought to know.

The Lewinsky Affair (August 1998)

A president. An intern. A cigar. Allegations of sexual relations. Denial. Subsequent admission. Perjury. Impeachment. Ah, those were the good old days. Who can forget this lewd affair between former President Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky? His ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman‘ statement has also been parodied several times in Whose Line Is It Anyway? skits.

Kosovo War (March-June 1999)

In relatively the same region as above’s Srebrenica Massacre, an uprising of the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo, a region of Serbia, led to a brutal military campaign that spawned reports of genocide and displaced tens of thousands of people. The international community responded with NATO sending warplanes to bomb the region until everyone shat bricks, which opened the region to UN administration. As seen in the photo above, ‘massive bombing attack opens the door to peace’. Hmm.

The New Millennium (2000)

People who were old enough to party during this time would remember just how rowdy people got in the face of the end of the world. Reports of a millennium bug that would destroy the world’s interconnected systems and warnings of man-made or natural disasters striking just when the clock strikes midnight on the new year (who knew nature kept a watch?) were rampant, which led to massive partying by people all over the world who thought they were gonna die and they had to do as much stupid stuff as they can before they get to the Pearly Gates.

Also, Al Gore got screwed this year and Little Bush got elected.

9/11 (2001)

I remember this day. It was the morning of my sister’s birthday when news of planes getting hijacked reached us here in the Philippines. My dad and I were already glued to the TV when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Almost three thousand people died. The shock on Bush’s face when he was told would go down in history. This terrorist attack (Bin Laden claimed responsibility) sparked what would become one of the most massive manhunts ever conducted. Bush would totally ignore the international community and declare all-out war in the Middle East, a war that is still not done. The world would also launch a global effort to end terrorism, making the subject a staple in international conferences and deliberations.

The Euro Enters Official Circulation (2002)

After a three-year transitional period, the Euro finally becomes legal tender in at least 12 countries within the European Union. Even before this, the EU has been lauded as the prime example of regional and economic integration and with the introduction of the Euro, it has also become one of the best examples of a free trade area with a common currency. This has led to debates regarding supranational organizations, the loss of sovereignty, and the introduction of a world government.

Also, in 2002, the Bali Bombings happened. This was a wake-up call for people in the region–the threats of terrorism were closer than they originally thought.

Gulf War II

It all started when US and “Coalition” troops invaded Iraq in what they said was an attempt to disarm Saddam Hussein of his “weapons of mass destruction”. About ten years later, no weapons have been found. Hussein has been deposed and executed, his giant statue of himself toppled, and sectarian violence has erupted all over the country. So much for international intervention.

Southeast Asia Tsunami (December 26, 2004)

Boxing Day, 2004. A 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck somewhere in the Indian Ocean and triggered tsunamis that erased entire coastal communities and obliterated holiday resorts and parts of cities. Almost 250,000 people from fourteen countries were killed–a sobering reminder that Mother Nature is a bitch and is about to strike back for everything we’ve done to her. Most of what we know about the tsunamis come from amateur videos that survived the onslaught. A family friend died in this event. A moment of silence, please.

Death of Pope John Paul II (April 2005)

Never has been there a pope who endeared himself to millions yet managed to alienate a huge chunk of the Catholic community and the world. This charismatic pontiff played key roles in the fall of Communism, the beatification of more people than any pope in history, and the reintroduction of the Catholic faith into the mainstream. At the same time, his very conservative policies stifled the move to a more open Church, leading to the alienation of many of its more forward-thinking members.

Also, this year, Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake hit. YouTube was launched, and Angela Merkel becomes the first female Chancellor of Germany.

Twitter is Launched (2006)

Yes, I consider this part of history. Twitter has been the tool of this generation to forward change, an idea encapsulated in the slogan, “The Revolution will be Tweeted!” If you’re not satisfied with that, this year Pluto was demoted to ‘dwarf planet’ status, North Korea conducts its first of many nuclear tests, and as mentioned above, Saddam Hussein is executed.

Multiple Technological Innovations (2007)

2007 marked the year of technological innovations. This was the year when Apple first introduced the iPhone, which would quickly become one of the world’s fastest-selling phones and will usher in an era of smartphones. Amazon also released the Kindle, which will slowly contribute to the death of the printed word, what with the end of Encyclopædia Britannica and Reader’s Digest’s declaration of bankruptcy.

This year also marked the start of the global financial crisis, which wouldn’t explode until 2008.

Global Financial Crisis (2008)

The United States went from being a financial powerhouse to a fatally-wounded giant basically overnight. The American economy crashed following the bursting of the housing bubble and hasn’t fully recovered since, going through a massive recession that rivaled the Great Depression of the early 1900s. This economic downturn reverberated all over the world, which eventually led to the Euro crisis and stagnation in growth of economies everywhere.

In other news…

Barack Obama Elected President (2008)

So went from Lincoln‘s Thirteenth Amendment, to Mandela’s campaign against apartheid, to the election of the first black president of the United States of America. What else do I have to say, really?

Major Breakthroughs in Cancer Research (2009)

In 2009, scientists finally managed to completely map the genetic code of of both skin and lung cancer. Mapping of the genetic codes of diseases like these will help immensely when it comes to the development of targeted medication. On top of this, 2009 was also when the mouse genome was fully sequenced. Because of the similarity between the human genome and that of mice–and the prevalent use of mice in scientific endeavors–this will also help in the fight against diseases.

Also this year, water is found on the moon, Mercury is mapped almost completely, and Burj Dubai–the tallest man-made structure in the world–is completed.

Haiti Earthquake (January 2010)

Imagine an earthquake so strong that it destroys more than half of your city. Can’t? Well, that’s exactly what happened in Haiti when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit them in 2010–the strongest quake to hit Haiti in over a century. 60% of government infrastructure was obliterated, 180000 homes were left uninhabitable, and more than 220,000 people were killed. Also, a new version of We Are the World was released to gather support for the quake’s victims.

In other news, Apple debuts the iPad, the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and became the worst marine disaster in US history, scientists create first synthetic life, and CERN researchers were finally able to trap antimatter.

Arab Spring (2010)

Arab Spring is the wave of revolutionary demonstrations, protests, and wars that swept across the Arab world beginning in December 2010. The uprisings began in Tunisia after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. The uprisings were then taken up in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, to Libya, then to Yemen, and to a whole host of other countries within and outside the region. What is new in these events is that the revolution is generally led by the youth who come together with the help of social media, leading the government crackdowns on the Internet and debates on the use of social media in democratization.

Osama Bin Laden Killed by SEAL Raid (May 2011)

Watch Zero Dark Thirty. But first, read up on all of this bastard’s atrocities first, especially how he planned 9/11. It will make you enjoy the image of his bullet-ridden body all the more, like Hitler’s in Inglorious Bastards.

In other news, Japan faced but successfully defused (more or less) a nuclear meltdown after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, Greece is gradually falling into anarchy because of an economic meltdown, South Sudan becomes an independent nation, global population reaches seven billion, and China’s Three Gorges Dam is finally deemed operational.

Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars (August 2012)

In 2012, NASA successfully sends an interplanetary rover reminiscent of Pixar’s Wall-E to explore the red planet. Among its many instruments, it has the first HD video and still camera ever taken to space and so far has managed to document its trip to Mars as well as its landing, and to characterize the planet’s climate in preparation for human exploration. How’s that for surreal? Also, for something that’s not technically alive, it has one of the best Twitter accounts ever.

In other news, 2012 also marked the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, London hosting the Olympic Games, the release of Windows 8 (like anybody cared) and, oh yeah, the fact that THE WORLD DID NOT END. I bet there are Mayans floating up there somewhere laughing their asses off.

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I know I missed a lot of stuff so talk to me in the comments and tell me what you think. For all my fellow Filipinos, I’ll make a list of events in Philippine history soon. Maybe tomorrow. Or next month. But soon.

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3 thoughts on “Living Through History: Why Our Generation is the Luckiest By Far

  1. If I have to say, perhaps the girl meant that, “being part of” in the sense that she wanted to participate in one. Like she’s the one releasing Nelson Mandela, she removed a piece of the Berlin Wall and instead of Dolly, she was cloned instead.

    Or maybe she wanted to be a part of the Seal team or land with Curiosity on Mars which are, arguably, much better choices.

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