Don Rogers: Bounty belies our alarm
On the whole, life has never been better for humankind.
Yes, even with the pandemic, the wars, the oppression, the chasm between the 1% and the rest of us, the rise in the autocrats, soft and not so soft genocide, opioids, Afghanistan, Syria, starvation, oppression, depression, discrimination, global warming, the whole host of miseries.
Better than ever, I’m telling you. Objectively, statistically, scientifically so. Go ahead and check the measures. Because you can, you know.
We’ve never had more access to information, good information, nor so easy. We’ve never been healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, freer. Never more blessed.
And yet, at least around here, there’s all this, what? This angst I’ll call a chatty dread. Liberal people convinced the world will burn away within their lifetime or very shortly thereafter. Conservative people spooked by “socialism,” Marxism! Most don’t seem to know quite what that is, really, unable tell Karl Marx from Groucho.
Then we’re all back to our coffee made of special beans from Brazil, complaining by keyboard about the crappy wifi, and anyway when will that *$&# mail-UPS-newspaper delivery arrive?
Yes, I’m saying we can be a little shrill in our demands on everyday life, insufficiently moved by the dramas and catastrophes and injustices of this world, have the least clue about real suffering. All our names could be Karen.
Chatty dread. Never better, never more irked. Collectively, we’ve never been more spoiled.
Not that the world lacks for problems, including truly existential ones.
Global warming will get us all if we don’t recognize the pollution causing it and actually do something about it. Not to mention our aquifers are fast depleting, deserts expanding, and so on.
Democracy is under seige around the world, not just here. Call America a democracy, a republic, a democratic republic, a representative democracy, whatever you like. It’s all the same. What limits the vote raises the risk of eroding governance “by the people, for the people.” Remember that quaint sentiment? Our grasping, posing political parties plainly do not, concerned not about The People, only their own.
The rise of the machines, or at least artificial intelligence, means our jobs in the century-long window, the briefest blink in time. Then what? What does that mean for income, for purpose?
Pandemics of all sorts are natural consequences of a population of anything exceeding the carrying capacity of its environment. We might take comfort amid the world population explosion in the decreasing birth rate among developed countries and hope that trend continues as the developing nations catch up. There’s no promise in that, though. Meantime, greenhouse gas emissions per capita will almost surely rise to match ours.
Aggressive, warlike nations continue to exist and construct ever more deadly weaponry to go with their ambitions. Russia’s massing. China plainly is on the move. India and Pakistan both bristle with nukes in their standoff. Israel, Iran, North Korea, hot spots everywhere.
There’s plenty to take into account. The list is sobering.
OFF A CLIFF?
Pockets of the world and plenty of individuals have never had it worse. The story of life for humans remains writ large with suffering.
But the mean has moved steadily on a scale into comfort. Today’s poor have wealth and access to information far surpassing royalty of yore. We’re better off in measurable ways than a thousand years ago, a hundred, 10.
Has this relative bliss encouraged us to divorce ourselves from reality? Maybe we’re not capable of distinguishing between never better and racing toward oblivion.
We’re a people prone to obsessing over COVID while eating and drinking ourselves into the clutches of more common killers, or letting what some politician said serve for science and consistently mistaking even utter fantasy for fact.
We throw millions and millions of our dollars and hours of attention at gaming, Tik Tok, influencers we find amusing. How serious can we be, given where so much of our focus really goes? Sure, we discuss some of the big challenges, but we’re all in with our distractions.
And here, I think, the train of “never better” stops cold. There’s no sign we’ve gained in wisdom, which of course is required of us most of all. And now more than ever.
Finally, a question: Have we ever been more foolish?
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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