|Print | Back||April 25, 2013|
This is Not a StoneThe World is a Terrible, Horrible Place
by Hannah Bird
The world is a terrible place. Everyone is saying it. The world is violent and immoral. Goodness and virtue are being attacked on all fronts. Life is terrifying and dangerous. It is all a symptom of these modern times. It is enough to make one long for the good old days when life was easier, people were kinder, and the world was a safer place.
But if what you want is easier, kinder, and safer I have great news for you: you are living in the good old days.
If I had a time machine and a jumbo bottle of Listerine, I could become a minor deity in the average medieval village. I could make people not stink, relieve mouth sores, reduce dysentery, and make more women survive childbirth. If I took Listerine and a bottle of bleach, I would change their world. I could end plagues, prevent the loss of livestock, and make their clothes sparkling clean. Right up until I ran out of bleach and mouthwash I would be hailed as a hero. Then I would probably be burned as a witch but that has less to do with my miracle potions and more to do with my big mouth. If you were the witch burning type, Iím pretty sure that I would be an irresistible target.
It gets better. I am a readerĖ I am an unrepentant book girl. Luckily for me I live in an era where female literacy is the highest it has ever been. There is good news for men, too. You can now read and study the scriptures in a language you know and understand. You do not rely on some chosen messenger to disseminate bits of scripture and interpret them as he chooses. We can write, too. We can write banal texts or beautiful love notes or scathing letters to the editor demanding that kids stay off our lawn. But you do not have to go back many centuries to find those who would be our peers who could do neither.
Knowledge is more accessible than it has ever been. We are just a few centuries away from the invention of the printing press. We marinade daily in an ever changing mix of knowledge and entertainment. I can read ancient philosophers. I can look at copies of ancient texts. I can follow the most cutting edge research. I can get news about what is happening half the world away as it happens. Most importantly, I can fake a sudden attack of whatever I come up with and spend a whole weekend watching Arrested Development. In my bed.
Children mostly grow up. They do not succumb to diarrhea that we can treat with a midnight trip to Wal-mart. They do not get polio. While there are still children in developing countries who face these very real dangers, we continue to move towards childhood being the safest it has ever been. In most countries you will find children at school or lounging about the house or being chauffeured to an activity. The do not work in factories being maimed or killed. In fact, we get to worry about our children becoming lazy. We worry that they have too much leisure. We do not worry that they will not come home from the mine.
We are more comfortable than any age before us. We have central heat and air. We have heated car seats. We have memory foam mattresses that feel like a daily miracle. I can get laughing gas for a dental cleaning (I have been very upfront about what a wuss I am Ė feel free to judge). We can eat fruit that doesnít grow near us. We can buy dinner if we donít want to make it. Someone even figured out how to make knit denim. We may never have to actually get dressed again. And I can buy that knit denim from my house wearing a micro plush bathrobe.
The world is definitely safer and easier than it has ever been. But what about kindness? People make bombs out of appliances to kill little boys. People donít know their neighbors. There is bullying on the news.
I believe the world is a kinder place than it has ever been. A few generations ago it would have been ok to say unspeakably ugly things to my beautiful nephew. People could look at his skin and decide what he could be, who he could talk to. But now he is not a word but a person. He is free to outperform your kid at school (and he does). He can pick who he is. I can speak as a woman and expect to be treated respectfully. I get to annoy my fellow humans with my opinions. We expect more, not less, kindness towards those that are different than we ever have.
When kindness fails, when evil strikes and breaks our hearts, we see again and again that people are deeply kind. Strangers make tourniquets and hold the suffering. Casualties are avoided because of the quick actions of people who, at the core of them, were just brave and kind. People select professions where the put themselves into harmís way to save others. School kids raise money to help kids is need. We may have a million differing views on how to be good and kind. But most people are.
So welcome my friend to the good old days. It isnít perfect but itís great. We can keep making it better. I believe we will because most of us are good and kind.
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