07 December 2015

If the Beginning of the End Times Marks the End Then Would the End of the End Times Mark a Beginning?

I've been surprised lately that so many people I know are convinced that the shootings in San Bernardino and Colorado Springs are proof that these are awful times to be alive. I don't question that these events are tragedies. I do challenge the notion that these events make today a worse time to be alive than in the past. 

Every 50 to 100 years, life gets remarkably better. And the rate at which it gets better is improving.

50 years ago, in 1965, people on the left were convinced that the world was being ruined by the military industrial complex and people on the right were convinced that it was being ruined by hippies and communists. Everyone had his reasons to believe that the world was getting worse and plenty of good data to prove it was bad.
  • Civil Rights demonstrations included hundreds of Alabama State Troopers attacking demonstrators, and the KKK killing activists. 
  • US involvement in Vietnam escalated. The rate at which men were drafted doubled. The rate  at which soldiers were dying quadrupled. This, too, triggered demonstrations that included LBJ being hung in effigy at Berkeley and at least one man lighting himself on fire.
  • In terms of social progress, in most states, a woman could not open a checking account without her husband's signature and segregation was still common throughout the south.

100 years ago was much worse. In 1915, World War I was well under way. 

  • Before it was over, WWI killed 17 million people and wounded another 20 million. If you couldn't find reason to suppose this "Great War" marked the last days, you probably didn't have much of an imagination.
  • Life expectancy for men in the US was 52 and for women was 57, about 2 decades less than it would be at the close of the century
  • In terms of social progress, there were no federal laws banning child labor and the six day workweek was still the norm
The simplest measure of whether things really are getting worse is this: would you rather live in those earlier times when lives were shorter and work weeks were longer, when we were at war with countries and not concepts? I'll let you discuss that among yourselves.

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