There is nothing more annoying when you are growing up than hearing about how great things were back in the day and how men were real men and women were real women and everyone respected everyone and went to church on Sunday and fought for their country and then, about the time you were born, everything went to hell.
It is particularly annoying because it has almost never been true. Oh…there were great and courageous people in earlier generations who contributed enormously to the world we live in and who sacrificed so that we could live in relative peace and prosperity. That being said, the world of the past, even the recent past, is not one most any of us would choose to live in.
For one thing, it was a world that, even more than our own, favored white males, preferably ones with a good pedigree, and thought of most other people as, at best, second class citizens. And, while I, as much as anyone, find this generation of “snowflakes” and our current climate of “political correctness” about as irritating as a pebble in my shoe, I suppose it is far better to be irritated by people seeking to treat people fairly and with kindness and respect than the alternative. And, to be fair, that “alternative” was far too prominent in even our recent past.
Yes, we can always do better but we now live in a world that at least acknowledges that we have often failed our fellow citizens and not treated them with the proper level of respect and fairness. We also live in a world in which every event is magnified many times over what it would have been a generation past. The 24 hour news cycle and the pervasiveness of social media has made us more aware than ever before of when we fall short. And, to be fair, we will always fall short.
And it is not just in our treatment of each other that we have made improvements. Despite what you may hear, most of the world lives at a level of material wealth that would have been unimaginable to almost anyone a century past. Economic freedom has resulted in dramatic gains in places like India and China, places we were often advised to take pity on as children.
And again, despite what you may hear and see on the news, the level of violence in our world is likely at an all time low. Not that we don’t do terrible things to one another. We still do. But violence within nations and between nations in this century is nothing compared to past centuries where life was often indeed “brutish and short.”
People generally live longer and are healthier. And, when we get sick, there are better treatments than ever before. Every day medical science routinely helps people in ways we would have thought miraculous a few decades past.
We are still using too many fossil fuels but our industries and our homes are more fuel efficient than ever before. We still do damage to our environment but advanced economies typically do far less damage than subsistence societies who do whatever it takes to simply survive, regardless of the long-term consequences.
No, the only way in which we are actually more at risk today than a generation past is that we are more susceptible to the fear-mongering and the manipulation of the political and media elites whose wealth and power is largely built on convincing us just how much we need them to take care of us in this terrible and rapidly deteriorating world. Just a few hours watching any cable news outlet or listening to any of their talking heads will convince you that the end is truly near and that only following their “one true path” can save us from disaster.
No, I don’t think so. If their is anything we can do to “save ourselves,” it is to stop listening to those folks and just get on with the business of our lives. Sadly, most of never actually do much to better the human condition. Only those few people who figure out how to do something better than we’ve done it before can make that claim. But there will also be plenty of folks who claim that they are making a big difference when all they are doing is filling the atmosphere with a good deal of hot air.
So, enjoy this New Year! Take note of all your blessings and ask yourself if you honestly would have rather been alive in any other place and time than right now! I, for one, say no. These are indeed the “good old days.”
This blog will likely once again resume a more explicitly political bent over the next few weeks. As the title suggests, the avowed purpose of starting this site was to help bring the many varieties of libertarianism together. To that end, I will focus more on discussing what I view as the moral and philosophic basis of libertarian philosophy and try to advance a world view which is less about specific issues and more about libertarianism as an alternative way of thinking.
Until next time, have a great week and thanks for reading!