Friday, May 28, 2010


I was talking to someone who thinks the world has never been in worse shape. I tried to give them some perspective.

At the start of WWII, most of the world still hadn't recovered from The Great Depression, Japan had wiped out almost the entire U.S. Navy fleet and taken over most of the Pacific and much of Asia, Germany was successfully taking over Europe and looking like it was on its way to conquering England and The U.S.S.R. And war was raging all over the globe. Not to mention concentration camps were being filled and "the final solution" being honed.

Nothing close to that (in terms of numbers) going on now. Even in the worst places on Earth.

In the 1960s, some rivers in the USA were so polluted they caught on fire (the famous Cuyahoga in Ohio) and/or nothing was able to live in them and humans couldn't swim in them or even put their hands in them. A whole lot of people were dying in Southeast Asia for what turned out to be no really good reason (a lot more than are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq). And people were dying in the USA over political differences so fierce it looked like another Civil War might be possible. Dying of hunger and malnutrition too.

Not to even get into The Civil War period. Slavery anyone?

Yes, there are a lot of things wrong in our world today, and the impact of global warming and the resistance to accepting the reality of it certainly bodes ill for certain aspects of life as we know it on this planet (including entire species). And the threat of "terrorism" (i.e. violence perpetrated by people not affiliated officially with a nation, or by nations not accepted as legitimate by other nations, etc.) is real, as is the financial problems caused by several things (including global technology outpacing the ability to police it and profiteering by soulless corporations and individuals etc.)...and war (the fighting in the Congo is as close as we get to WWII volume casualties) etc.

Lots of situations and circumstances to be concerned about, absolutely. Injustice and inequality, especially for women in a lot of the world. Some places going backwards in terms of scientific and humanistic progress, etc. And it's right and good to work to alleviate the pain and suffering of victims of these situations and circumstances and to correct the record so that solutions are based on reality and not propaganda (that's a tough one in this age of non-accountability for outright lying in most of the media, but then it's still better than the tactics used by the Nazis and the Stalinists etc.). All that and more is true.

But in the end, it certainly is no worse than previous times. But wait, you say, the earth is in jeopardy because of ecological threats from global warming and corporate irresponsibility and technological and scientific discoveries going beyond what is safe (genetically altered food, the ability to create life out of chemicals, etc.) That's true. But in the 1950s most people believed the world might come to an end at any moment from nuclear holocaust, as they called the possibility of the USSR and the USA using "mutual destruction" to solve, well not solve, but end, literally, their problems with each other...etc.

A lot of good reasons to work and fight to change things for the better, but no cause for despair, if only because it's counter productive if you want to help in changing things for the better.


AlamedaTom said...

A very thoughtful and cogent post, bro. It brought to mind my late father always saying "the good old days weren't that good." One of the things he mentioned was the much shorter life expectancy and the prevalence of disease. Having raised two great children and having two wonderful grandchildren, I cannot even fathom what it would have been like to have one or more of them die in childhood. Yet, in the "good old days" such loss was a common occurrence. I'll take our roll of the dice every time.

~ Willy

Jamie Rose said...

Thanks for this Lals. I'm going to repost on Facebook.


Butch in Waukegan said...

Your post prompted me to look for a quote I saved a long time ago:

It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself. — G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

Are we on a downward slope? There's lots of evidence that we are.

Many have noted that our children and grand children will not have the same quality of life that we (over 50) have had. In my opinion this is due to empire — wars and a huge military plus globalization with a growing income gap between the super rich and the rest of us. Can we turn this around?

I don’t know, but your last paragraph is exactly on target.

Anonymous said...

michael, what you describe with the intent of giving a positive optomistic spin on the activity of human society, i see as a perpetual horror to be forever endured unless we actually evolve to a place were we " love our neighbors as ourselves"

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

I like what don Juan said to Carlos: "The warrior's art is to balance the terror of existence with the wonder of existence."

Anonymous said...

anger AND greed are toxic

every so often it is just
"pay-back time"

it wasn't Beauty who killed the beast.... it was GREED