For most of us growing up in the 2000s, war is a term for history and fiction. (And historical fiction, I guess.) So imagine the surprise and shock when the world woke up to #WorldWar3 trending on Twitter.
Of course, the Internet being the Internet, most of the posts under the hashtag were memes. However, why did the topic spring up suddenly? Is there an actual threat of another World War? And if yes, why are people making memes about it?
Oops, USA Did It Again
Let's break down everything that's happened yet.
On Thursday, (or our Friday,) the American Defense Department announced that they killed Qassim Suleimani, an important commander from Iran. The attack, carried out on the Baghdadi airport, allegedly resulted in other high-profile deaths as well.
This comes a mere day after the two-day riots against the American Embassy in Iran. Following this, President Trump (no, impeachment does not remove him as president) ordered the deployment of 750 troops to the Middle-East. Defense Secretary Esper didn't fail to mention that more troops are on standby if needed.
So, tensions are bound to escalate.
America claims that Suleimani had been planning attacks against American diplomats and other international officials. They state, and I quote, "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."
In response, Iran's Supreme Leader (that's what they call their head of state) Ali Khameini promised "harsh revenge" against "criminals" who killed Soleimani.
And we thought 2019 was bad.
Okay, Shouldn't People Be Scared? Why Memes?
The short answer is, people are making memes because they're scared.
Is that confusing? If so, allow me to elaborate.
Most of the internet generation has never faced the possibility of an actual international war until recent times. The last World War ended 74 years ago, and the creation of organisations like the United Nations and the ease of communication as well as access has greatly improved peace.
War is not something we associate with our lives or understanding of the world today. Instead of being a grim everyday reality, war is something that has primarily belonged to history lessons and stories. The horrors of previous ones along with the basic understanding that violence=bad has usually kept the thought at bay.
For our generation, memes and absurd humour are the primary methods we use to deal with concerning or frightening situations. It's like laughing or giggling when you're nervous or traumatised; it's a coping mechanism for a lot of us.
Moreover, memes have also become a tool for communication and awareness in general. They allow people to discuss their feelings (the fear of being drafted or coming to the realisation that an actual war may be imminent) without having to delve deeper into the emotions that accompany them, by keeping it light-hearted and chill.
They're a cultural phenomenon, and rather than underestimating the situation, the usage of these memes does indicate that people are, in fact, taking this seriously. Ironic, I know, but that's us millennials in a nutshell.