To hear the news and social media, you would think that humanity and our planetary condition are like water circling the drain to the point the sink is almost empty.
I am the first to say we are busy as hell trying to make the doomsday criers’ predictions come true, but a look back at history and the facts don’t bear out that narrative. Before I go into my reasoning, I would like to point out that we can technically destroy all life on Earth in days, if not hours. I also would concede that this scenario is possible, but I believe it is improbable.
Anyone who reads history has to conclude that we have always been a violent species. This includes every nation on every continent on Earth. Those that look only to the current past, by that I mean in the past century or two, develop a narrative of how oppressive and cruel one group or another has been treated, enslaved, or brought to the edge of extinction. History shows us that this has happened since there were two nations on Earth. The practice of genocide and slavery was commonplace and accepted as a fact of life.
You don’t read in history journals of marches, demonstrations, and protests of injustices as a way of correcting wrongs. In those times, bloody revolts often replaced one tyrant with another. As we became more civilized, we put people in arenas, killing each other for sport. Today, we try to use football or soccer to satisfy our bloodlust. We do not always succeed.
Throughout history, slavery was so common it was not considered wrong. Undoubtedly, most enslaved people in early history considered it just their bad luck to be born enslaved rather than a master. Slavery was seldom about race. Many nations in the past enslaved people from other countries and their own. It was a matter of convenience of who they could acquire through force or trade.
Indeed, we have violence and slavery today in some areas of the world. However, I contend we have much less than in the past. At this point, I plan to show our progress toward a more civilized world.
We have, particularly in this century, seen a sharp rise in awareness of injustices in nations with the most freedoms. I do not speak only of those countries that practice democratic forms of government. I say it is any nation with the freedom to voice opinions, protest injustices, and connect to like-minded people worldwide. Even most people who live under oppressive governments have access to cell phones, the internet, and social media. Using social media, many add their voices to people or groups who may assist them in bringing about positive change, even at the risk of being punished or imprisoned if caught.
Of course, it isn’t a linear progression of positive outcomes. Most of the time, it is three steps forward, then two steps back. The progress is so slow that it may take future generations another century to look back and see the positive changes. One of my favorite passages on this subject is from Eckhart Tolle in his book “Stillness Speaks” where he speaks about how it may seem no progress is being made: “Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much “noise.” He fails to mention that the news media is the primary source of the “noise,” and they rarely report our progress toward a better world.
Without a doubt, a person in a war zone, starving in a country or migrant camp, enslaved, or dying of Ebola will dispute this and feel certain all life is doomed. Who could blame them?
This optimism I am relating to should be viewed dispassionately and from a larger perspective to come to this conclusion. One must take into account many details to evaluate the world’s condition today. I think I am right about this, but my famous saying also comes into play here – I could be wrong!