Vail Daily column: Things have never been worse?
Ryan Summerlin August 28, 2014
The world’s a mess, of course.
There’s ISIS busy creating the caliphate nightmare. Who to fight in Syria when the strongest rebels offer an even worse solution than Assad?
Here’s that St. Louis suburb Ferguson, where a gentle giant of an unarmed black man was gunned down by a pink cop feeling his oats. Or was it a big thug who had just muscled his way to steal a box of cigars from a convenience store and was attacking a police officer in squad car while going for the officer’s gun?
Our beliefs about who did what seem to depend entirely on our skin color. Here we go again.
Meantime, Russia under Putin is making moves much like Germany did in the wind up to World War II, albeit farther east and in old Soviet satellites we’ve barely heard of and care less about. There went Georgia. Now it’s Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Where does this stop? Does it stop?
Ebola is ravaging Africa. Ancient enemies China and Japan are contesting a few little worthless islands. America has been actively at war in the Middle East for the past dozen years.
And, oh my, Burger King is moving to Canada.
Sounds like the Apocalypse is upon us.
Only, the world has never been a better, safer place in human history than right now. I’d say the same for America, too, for all our many flaws.
Today, racism is a subtle thing, we’re told, whites and blacks and brown-skinned and yellow-skinned unaware of our unconscious remaining biases that subtly shade our outlook and behavior. Especially for the educated whites, whose grip on dominance is fast slipping into a plurality.
We don’t seem to remember an age of actual lynchings, sequestering of whole peoples into camps and ghettos, or, ahem, slavery in our past. Discrimination within a baby boomer’s lifetime was considerably more than the casual hurt-feelings variety.
Count it up to progress that an incident such as in Ferguson arouses an entire nation. Not so long ago, this was common enough not to count as news even in the city in which it happened with all too much regularity.
There still are a few places in this world today where you can get yourself killed for being from the wrong clan in the wrong place, straying a few miles from home into another village’s territory without leave, daring to marry for love instead of a parent’s arrangements.
These are vestiges of a more-distant past that in more places than today were rather more brutal than we like to idealize.
America has been embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past seeming eternity. Terrible, of course. But the combined death toll of American soldiers under 7,000 in all that time still doesn’t match the first half-hour of certain battles as recently as World War II.
The history of Japan and China is quite bloody. Scary as the jousting over a few islands may be today, the sparring so far has been contained to words and feints rather than swords.
Our world’s weaponry remains extremely dangerous, although there was a lot more to fear during the Cold War. Our worries about terrorists, certain small nations, a rising China and in the rumbling remains of the Soviet Union are justifiable.
But the globe has been much scarier in reality when high death tolls were not possibilities but daily facts. Today we fret as much about “cyber” attacks as the real thing.
I don’t suggest we let our guard down and become blithely sanguine about today’s threats. But I will declare that our perspective is skewed.
As we panic about the monster Ebola contagion, with 1,500 deaths, we’ve forgotten the genuine plagues that decimated populations in the Dark Ages with death tolls in the millions. How is it the normal flu kills many, many more multiples of people every year than Ebola and we don’t give that much more thought than a cold?
We are a funny people.
A little research shows war, disease, discrimination, poverty and violent crime all declining around the world for all of our hand-wringing. Education, quality of life, general health, life span and so on all are rising.
There is plenty to be concerned about, no question. Population growth, environmental damage, extractable resources (some of which power your smart phone, by the way, while you frown at renewable paper), weapons of mass destruction all bristle with potential to lay waste to the world.
Yep, the world’s a mess.
And it’s never been better.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.