This world is amazing! Except perhaps for America.
My llama-focused reader in Thailand has digged out some quite interesting links lately, and the latest (as of this writing) was an online book called “Butterflies are free to fly“. Not for the weak of mind, admittedly. I was positively amazed and kept reading until Chapter 3, where suddenly the author throws himself at the steering wheel and makes a sharp turn toward the nearest off-ramp from reality. Â I quote:
~ when you look at the world today, do you really think the human race as a whole is more peaceful, more loving, more tolerant, more fulfilled, happier, safer, better fed and better housed than it was ten years ago? Or fifty or a hundred years ago? When you watch the evening news, doesnâ€™t the opposite appear to be true? Doesnâ€™t it seem like the world â€“ as portrayed in the 3D movies surrounding you â€“ is heading in the â€œwrongâ€ direction, away from constant and abiding joy, abundance, power, and love and into greater depths of pain and suffering despite all the efforts of all the different groups that have grown exponentially over the same period of time?
Where to begin? And if I begin, how will I end?
These last ten years have been by far the most wonderful in human history, beyond any imaginable comparison. Â Earth is certainly no paradise, but it is less hellish than it has ever been since the dawn of recorded history. There are less wars and conflicts than usual. The sheer number of people who have been lifted out of abject poverty during the past decade is comparable to the entire world population at the time of Jesus or Buddha or Socrates. One of the years in this decade was the first time there were more obese than starving people on the planet. With all due disrespect for obesity, I think that is an accomplishment of biblical proportions. Â During last year’s economic crisis, Africa as a whole saw an economic growth of around 4.5%. All but a few hate-filled fringes of the developing world have been growing at breakneck speed this decade.
Are people happier? Yes they are, with one glaring exception. Americans, more exactly those in the nation of the United States of America, are NOT happier. Â But America is not a very large part of the world in terms of population. It still has a sizable economy and military, but I don’t think we are talking about those here.
Now, if we go back fifty years – and I happen to have lived those years myself – the improvements are nothing short of miraculous. No, that is too weak. My lifetime has seen a miracle of such a magnitude that if God’s prophets had included a reasonably concise foretelling of this age in the Bible, people would have thrown the Bible in the trash bin as utter insanity. Â It is one thing for Jesus to walk on water, Jesus being Jesus after all. Â But for numerous people to walk on the moon? Nonsense. But it gets worse. Â Ordinary workers flying through the skies from one side of the world to the other? Thousands, no, millions of them? Children talking with friends hundreds of miles away? The music of great orchestra carried in your pockets and playing for your ears only? The knowledge of a million books in a box in your living room? No, wait, now in your shirt pocket! The eradication of smallpox, and the banishment of most plagues from entire continents? Come on, it is insane. Even if angels came down from on high and said this would happen, people might have chased them away with sticks and stones. And that is only a sample of what I have seen.
But are people happier? Yes, I think even the Americans are happier than they were in 1960. The rest of the world definitely. More peaceful? Definitely, despite some stop and go. More tolerant? Ask your gay friends whether they would want to take a time machine back 50 years. Â In fact, ask anyone.
People may gripe, but only a few delusional people, mostly Americans, would seriously want to turn the clock back 50 years. The ones who would want to turn it back 100 years are so few, I think I may possibly know 1. That’s the guy who is praying for natural disasters to strike his (and my) native Norway so its people can return to the Lord. Turning the clock back 100 years would probably qualify. He would be disappointed, however, to find that people 100 years ago were not the pious souls he imagines. In my childhood I listened for many long hours to my grandfather rambling on about his youth, which is now 100 years ago, and let me tell you: The drunkenness, whoring and fighting that was the norm back then was just shocking and disgusting.
Do the various spiritual splinter cells have any hand in the great improvement we have seen, or is it all due to secular science? Â That is another matter. I think we cannot separate the two. Rather they are two prongs of a much greater wave of change that is coming, one so immense that it must be seen from a very great height to become visible at all. For the rising tide lifts all boats.
Now, the book will get back on track, at least for a while. I am still making my way down it, not sure where I will stop reading. But because this is a common mythunderstanding, I wanted to clear it up. If you are American, you have my pity. I am not quite sure what went wrong, but please consider getting out of there while you still can. For most of us though, celebration is in order. Perhaps we should adopt the American tradition of yearly Thanksgiving – much good it seems to have done them…