It’s November 2020. My depression and anxiety are at a new peak. The serotonin rush of Trump losing the presidential election has worn off and the reality that terrible things are still happening is re-settling in. Following months of isolation from my friends and loved ones, hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID and a slight dependency on alcohol I was developing, you could say I was falling into a deep pit of doomerism.
If you’ve never heard of it, doomerism is the mindset that the world is only going to get worse and that human civilization is “doomed.” This growing mindset often leaves many young people with hopelessness and the idea that nothing can be done, or worse, should be done to make the world a better place.
In my desperate need to distract myself from my endless doomscrolling, I picked up a game that I beat back in 2017 — “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Through my second playthrough I learned a harsh truth — we can’t change the past, but we have the capability to act in the present and forge a better future.
“Breath of the Wild” begins with Link, the player’s character, getting woken up by Princess Zelda’s voice 100 years after his death and a devastating event known as “the Great Calamity.” With no knowledge of his past or why he was resurrected, Link is tasked with saving the kingdom of Hyrule from facing a worse catastrophe than it did a century prior.
I rode my horse through grassy plains, rolling hills of murderous robots and rainy jungles with horrendous framerate — yet there were almost no friendly nonplayer characters to interact with. Through all the beauty and peace you find in the game’s expansive wilderness, the game’s lack of interaction is a somber reminder of the apocalypse that occurred a century prior. The only traces of a thriving Hyrule are all decayed and left in ruin.
No longer a monstrous boar or a green-skinned humanoid figure, Ganon, the series’ main villain, is now a powerful, destructive cloud-like being called Calamity Ganon. He leaves behind a gooey substance of pure evil and corruption called “malice” that has contaminated the ruins of Hyrule — a constant reminder of Link’s failure to prevent the Great Calamity. Instead of fighting an evil monster, you are now confronting a sentient, evil and destructive force of nature all while figuring out how to heal from the past.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is this nerd going on about some boar who’s become a cloud? How on earth does this connect to doomerism? And why in God’s name is this evil boar’s ‘goo’ splattered all over the place?” To which I say: Does the endless news cycle of another hurricane, another wildfire or another potentially world-changing virus emerging from melting permafrost not scare you about nature’s potential to destroy us? Does it not remind you of the negligence and the actions of previous generations and selfish CEOs?
Many times throughout “Breath of the Wild,” you start to piece together what exactly happened in the past. You learn the story of a flawed king who inadequately prepared his kingdom from disaster and the stories of Link’s friends who died trying to protect Hyrule. It’s a sad reflection of how people were aware of an existential threat yet didn’t prepare for it in time — sound familiar?
The rise in doomerism is an inevitable product of us living through the consequences of previous generations’ actions and our inability to change them. It’s easy to ask why our parents and grandparents voted in administrations who denied climate change and worsened racial inequality and wish they would have made better choices. Living through a global pandemic and the global rise of authoritarianism hasn’t helped either. However, I think it’s important to actively fight against this mindset.
In the wise words of Princess Zelda, “Courage need not be remembered, for it is never forgotten.”
Courage, persistence and empathy are innate parts of the human condition. Giving into despair and doomerism only leads to inaction and worsens the possibility for things to change.
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who’s struggled with severe depression and anxiety my entire life, I have an intimate history with doomerism. I’m not perfect — I stay up-to-date on many current events and still catch myself doomscrolling more often than I’d like to admit.
Having time periods like this is inevitable in our day and age, but it is important that we acknowledge that there are always people, both worldwide and in our communities, who are fighting for causes that our generation cares about.
The hardest part is acknowledging cruel realities while also trying to remain mentally sane and hopeful. Honestly, some things are terrible right now and will get worse. There is genuine reason to grieve that. However, many other things can improve through collective action. Most importantly, we don’t have to face injustice and suffering alone. Giving into despair, hopelessness and inaction only allows injustice and suffering to get worse.
We can’t fix every single problem that we care about at the same time. Yes, we should be educated on current issues, organize and campaign to our best ability and elect the right people into power.
We must also acknowledge our personal limits and well-being by not spending hours of our lives destroying our mental health by mass panicking on social media. Doing so only prevents us from helping the people we care about.
Injustice and suffering in this world will continue to exist and take on many forms. However, these challenges can be overcome with the help of others. We have to be courageous enough to fight and persist against despair and hopelessness.
The final battle in “Breath of the Wild” is a fight between Link and the multiple forms of Calamity Ganon. With a sword in hand, combined with the aid of Princess Zelda and the spirits of his fallen friends protecting him, Link is finally able to defeat the evil that destroyed countless lives. After Ganon is defeated, there is still a ravaged kingdom to rebuild — but that can be a source of hope and renewal in making Hyrule a better place than before.
After all, if Link had given into inaction, Hyrule would have been destroyed all over again — rendering the sacrifices of others pointless.
We must take the first steps towards fighting for a better world and not let ourselves give into hopelessness and inaction. We owe it to ourselves, the generations that fought before us and our descendants to be courageous and create a better world. Ultimately, it’s worth marginally improving the lives of those suffering rather than doing nothing.
Carlos Moreno-Vega is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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