Why are so many people in the United States and around the world so pessimistic about their lives and their future? We hear people saying that this is the “worst of times”. The facts just don’t support this gloomy outlook. By every factual measure it’s one of the best times in human history.
Here is the evidence:
More people go to bed each night on a full stomach than ever before in human history. More people are literate than ever before in human history. More people live in comparative freedom than ever before in human history (90 nations are deemed “free” by the UN and many more are on the road to freedom).
Standards of living are rising all over the world in nations that were the “poster children of poverty” just 2 generations before. Examples are : India, China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Mexico, most of South and Central America, and many more.
Yes, wages in the US seem stagnant but prices on clothing and basic necessities have stayed level or even dropped. Housing and education costs have soared and that is a major problem. Gasoline is near 30 year lows, taxes in many states are low and dropping, (California and New York are the major exceptions) Federal top tax rates were 90% in 1960 and are 39% today..
Yet Americans feel that the “system is rigged” and they cannot get ahead.
There are no major wars anywhere around the globe. Yes there is the scourge of terrorism in the name of Islam but it kills a few thousand where in the 20th Century two World Wars killed over 100,000,000! So what’s the problem?
Why all this “Chicken Little” thinking?
I believe that fault lies in our consciousness not in the world around us. We are experiencing a major disconnect between the world as it is and the world as we perceive it to be. If we do not snap out of this global funk we shall soon create the world that we fear and that we currently believe is true. What you perceive, you receive!
Life is what you believe it is, nothing more or less. Our individual thinking, speaking and the choices that we make flow from our thoughts and words. This is how we create our individual reality and our collective reality. We need to wake up and live!
No, I am no Pollyanna! Heaven on Earth is not here yet, but compared to the 20th Century and its bloody horrors this is a Golden Age. Let’s get some perspective! Europe in the 14th Century was Hell on Earth with a mini Ice Age (Spain had the climate of Sweden) and 1/3 of the total population dead from war and and the Black Death.
The Fall of the Roman Empire was the fall of Western Civilization and a Dark Age of 1,000 years ensued. Now that was the worst of times!
What has caused this massive malaise? I believe that the 3 main causes of our global discontent (particularly true in the US and Europe) are fear of globalization, the loss of empathy and our lack of historical perspective.
Fear of globalization: this seems to be a feeling that as the rest of the world rises in influence, wealth and happiness; that we are perforce declining. We are seeing the world as a zero sum game in which for other nations to prosper we must decline. Instead of seeing great new opportunities to serve and sell to billions more customers all over the globe; Americans today see only that we are no longer the only great nation in the world. This fear is due to our woeful lack of historical perspective.
Let’s examine the role of the loss of historical perspective in creating the “worst of times” pessimism that is sapping our national spirit. In the US our educational system has declared History, Civics and Geography irrelevant to life in the 21st Century world. You can’t get a job with them, you can’t spend them, they are hopelessly “low tech”, so why teach them? Let’s focus on training for careers.
We can train dogs, dolphins, birds and monkeys but only a human can be educated. My dear mother always made that distinction graphically. She said that the mind is the “house in which you live”. “Will you live in a bare little room or a beautifully furnished palace?” I took her advice. Dore’ spent much of his life educating himself and others.
With no perspective and a short historical memory we act as children; believing the false evidence appearing real that demagogues and fools feed us.
“Make America Great Again”? Really? We were only “great” for 20 years after World War 2 because we emerged from the war with a terrible new weapon and an undamaged nation and economy. The rest of the industrialized world was in ruins. Memories are short, prior to 1941 we were in Depression and isolation from the world.
The British Empire was for 300 years the greatest nation in the world, now they are “little England”. If there be a great nation in the 21st Century we are still it.
The Loss of Empathy: The prime RX is the return of empathy to America. Empathy is the human faculty of being able to put yourself in another persons shoes. It is the ability to identify others as fellow travelers on the road of life, kindred spirits in search of the same things that we want.
Empathy is the ability to look in another’s eyes, no matter what color, ethnicity or religion and see yourself as them. At base it is the understanding that we all spring from the same source and that, appearances to the contrary, we all are seeking the same things from life: Love, personal fulfillment, happy families and prosperity. When we lose empathy we see those different paint jobs or culture as somehow alien and threatening. We dehumanize them in our hearts and minds. The world becomes “us” and “them”.
Soldiers have to lose empathy for their enemies or they could not kill them. Re-claiming empathy is very difficult for returning combat veterans. Once turned off, the empathy “button” is hard to find again. Since the US has been in an almost constant state of combat somewhere in the world since 1967, our body politic had hardened and lost empathy on a grand scale.
Imagine the loss of empathy needed to sit in a trailer in Nevada and remotely kill people half a world away. It is said that there is great turnover among these “pilots” because their hearts and souls just cannot abide what they do. Yes, it may be sometimes necessary but the cost in individual and human empathy is enormous.
The RX For a Troubled World is the regaining of empathy, without which we become a society of sociopaths. Regaining a decent historical perspective will give us comparisons that will then allow us to make valid decisions.
These two “fixes” will lead to a celebration of the rise of others in the world, not the fear and envy of them that we are experiencing now.
Ronald Reagan was right: A rising tide does lift all boats; if only we have the heart to see it.
Until we are together again…….be well, think well and speak well.
Rev. Dore’ Jacques Patlian, Sarasota, Florida