Things are about to change.

Such is human history that if you are fortunate enough to live to be ‘four score and ten’, and during your lifetime you are not witness, directly or indirectly, to disease, famine or war, you are indeed a very lucky person.

As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan, life in the 16th century was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. It may come as a rude shock to some that living in the 21st century with all its amazing technological advances doesn’t seem to make much difference either.

The cover of ‘Leviathan’ by Thomas Hobbes

We’re only 22 years in and so far we’ve had two years of the pandemic, bad enough, followed by rising inflation and war in Europe, with the very real prospect of it becoming the trigger for world war three.

The twentieth century witnessed the two greatest and most destructive wars of all time. During peacetime, life may not be brutish and short any more but modern warfare seems to more than make up for that just in terms of sheer scale, if nothing else.

In fact, some might argue that the risks of all the above occurring in a globalised, hyper-connected, hyper-interdependent world are even greater than would otherwise be the case. Considering how quickly both COVID spread around the world and how dramatically the rising price of oil is affecting the lives of virtually every human being on the planet, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

When and where you are born really are the only things that matter as far as mitigating factors go for any or all of the above risks, and this is of course a complete lottery, something that you as an individual have no control over whatsoever.

Taking recent history as an example, if you were born in the West towards the end or just after the second world war, you are part of the lucky sperm club of humans alive today who have enjoyed almost unparalleled prosperity and growth during the 80 years or so of your lifetime, the length of which no previous generation was able to take for granted, thanks mainly to the huge advances in medical science that came about during the 20th century, not least of which was the discovery of penicillin.

If on the other hand you were born in Bosnia, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine or a whole host of other African countries towards the late 80’s or early nineties, you will have witnessed not only the brutal tragedies of war but also a pandemic by the time you are in your mid to late forties, a figure that for these citizens is already considered to be a ripe old age. Such is the lottery of life.

Perception is everything when reality is allowed to take a comfortable back seat and living in the West has led us to believe that we are completely immune to bad things ever happening to us, but that’s all about to change.

We are about to discover the true value of the things that capitalism has led us to believe we can’t live without but actually we most certainty can when we really have to. Just driving to the shops may soon become so expensive that you will be forced to consider other options such as public transport or even cycling. Oh, the horror!

Assuming you manage to pass that test, then when you do finally manage to drag your bloated and oversized carcass across the supermarket threshold you may find, to your dismay, that your favourite vegan green snot smoothie is actually out of stock and that the only thing left on the shelves is some highly nutritious beef mince, costly though it may be. It’s either this or starve. What a choice you are forced to make. Never in your wildest dreams did you think that life would ever come down to this!

Without labouring the point even further, if the worst thing that happens to us in the West over the next few months or years is some form of personal sacrifice in the form of what has become known colloquially as ‘first world problems’, then we will be doing extremely well indeed, especially when you consider the alternative as having your home flattened by incessant shelling and then having to run for your life with just a handful of personal possessions, to then try and slowly rebuild the shattered fragments of your life in a strange and foreign land.

One way or another, for all of us things are about to change, probably quite dramatically, but the truth is that the world is always changing and, just like Einstein’s theory of relativity, how you perceive and experience these changes only really depends on your position as an ‘observer’ — when and where you were born. How you then choose to adapt is entirely down to you but you can always stack the odds even slightly in your favour by staying fit and healthy at all times. After all, Hobbes lived to be 91 thanks to a strict regimen of regular walks, mostly up hills. And that, in the 16th century, was no mean feat at all!

As ever, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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