They did not live in vain, those that came before us, for we are here.
– Yves Theriault, Canadian writer, Aaron, 1954
Maybe you don’t want to know this. Maybe you believe that the world is worse than ever before, that the End Time is near. If that is the case, you should save yourself because what follows won’t agree with your doomsday beliefs.
We have a tendancy to believe that the world is getting worse, that people are behaving worse, the violence is on the increase, that children misbehave much more than when we were children. In short, that the world in its present state is a poor thing to have to pass along to the next generation.
That may be the bubble you have created for yourself, but it doesn’t fit with the reality that is our history. That may be the impression you get from the media, but the media strive more than anything else to make you afraid so that you will give them more of your attention, time and money.
According to United Nations statistics, the world is a safer place than it has ever been in human history. To begin with, the world has normally had around 30 wars ongoing through most of our history. We have 26 now, perhaps as few as 24 depending on where you draw the line.
While the United States, for example, has far more crime than it did half a century ago, it also has far more people in far less space, with fewer resources in many cases. Simply put, more people means more crime.
Indians worry that their crime rate is burgeoning, especially in their large cities, but the population of India has doubled in the past half century. Just over 50 years ago, when India gained it independence, 10 million people died in skirmishes while trying to migrate one way or the other between the new Pakistan(s) and the new India (India was divided into three–arguably four if you include Kashmir–parcels when the British left).
True, we have the power to obliterate the entire planet many times over using nuclear weapons. But the only country that has ever used such a powerful weapon was the US, over two Japanese cities, and those atomic bombs were far less powerful than today’s nuclear arsenal.
Nobody wants to press the button. They know what would happen. Not only devastion far worse than that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but similar weapons would be in the air heading for their own location before their own weapons struck their targets.
Let’s look back at some tragic times in the past century. Joseph Stalin had up to ten million people killed during his time as the supreme leader of the USSR, but Stalin never did anything that would cause harm to himself. Hitler had over twenty million lives snuffed out during the Holocaust, plus many more as a result of the war, but he never did anything that would harm himself until the Allies were outside his bunker and he shot himself.
Hitler was, by all accounts, crazy, yet even he would not do anything that would harm himself or that would allow his enemies to harm him until it was obvious that he had nothing left to live for.
We may worry that some madman may acquire nuclear capability and wipe the world we know into history, but nothing in human history should cause us to believe that it would happen. Leaders, mad or not, don’t even consider anything that would end their dreams of world domination. They want power, not self destruction.
The world has always been a violent place. Humans have always been a violent species, perhaps the most violent of any since we kill each other with little provocation. But the ones of us who die by violent means are unlucky, just as the ones who die of disease or injury are unlucky.
The vast majority of us live fundamentally similar lives from one year to the next. We have people killing themselves slowly by smoking or taking heavy drugs or driving at breakneck speeds, but we don’t give them much notice. They present a much greater risk to our safety than nuclear holocaust or climate change, but they don’t warrant a spot on the nightly news.
(Smoking is a danger to non-smokers? My mother, who never smoked, died of lung cancer from inhaling second hand smoke from my chimney-smoking father–who also died of lung cancer. It’s more common than you think.)
Rather than listening to doomsady scenarios propagated by the media, we should be making our own lives better. Not making ourselves richer, because wealth never made anyone happy. Making our lives richer.
Those who live rich lives inevitably make the lives of those around them better and make the world in general a better place.
It’s better than worrying about bombs and violence. Worrying never did a lick of good for anyone, ever.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help make every life a little better, one at a time.
Learn more at http://billallin.com