The World – A Better Place Today?

If someone had asked that question a century or so ago, in most places in the world there would have been one of two answers.  In the western hemisphere, or in those areas dominated by western hemisphere culture, the answer most predominantly would have been, “Of course.”  And in the remainder of the world, the answer would most likely been, I suspect, a variation on “Has it changed?”

 The problem with trying to answer that question today is defining what one means by “better.”  If we’re talking about general health, better nutrition, less deadly and widespread violence, then, in general, the world is a better place, that is, if you’re not in Somalia, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, parts of Africa… and similar locales. But other aspects of “better” aren’t so clear.

More people can theoretically read, if one defines reading as the ability to decipher the meaning of symbols in print… but, at least in the United States, based on what I and all too many others have seen in higher education, high level comprehending literacy and the ability to concentrate on written material has declined even as technical computer skills have increased. The retained knowledge database of most individuals has declined, most likely because any fact is easily found through smartphones or computers.  Better or worse?  That depends on the definition… and the priorities behind the definition.

 There are certainly more nations where citizens can vote, and according to various foundations, in general there’s more freedom, but given the political structures in many countries, that “freedom” often means little real choice, which means that matters may be “better” politically, but not nearly so much better as the Pollyannas claim.

 In the high-tech western nations, child labor is rare, and air and water pollution is far less than it was a century ago…but in all too much of the world, those conditions are likely worse.  Whether matters are better depends on where you are… and how high – or low – your income is.

 The problem with deciding whether the world is a better or worse place is that most of us decide based on where we live, and no one place is representative of the world.  More troubling than that is the fact that most of those who can make their views known about the state of the world are those who are anything but representative, because in a media intensive world, the vast majority of those who can even participate are the comparatively more affluent and advantaged. This isn’t anything new; it goes back as far as the invention of writing because, then, only the advantaged could write [and even the slaves who served as scribes were more advantaged than most others].

 In the end, it’s a good idea to remember that “better” is a comparative, and that it all depends on what is being compared by whom… and for what reason.

4 thoughts on “The World – A Better Place Today?”

  1. Wine Guy says:

    So, situation normal: no one knows because there is no effective way to come to a true consensus.

  2. Alan says:

    I found it quite depressing a few days ago when a radio station I listen to hosted their morning trivia. 33% of adults say they have not done ‘this’ since high school.

    The answer? Read a book. For any reason.

    After speaking with some co-workers, I found that my habits are considered pretty darned strange. I would estimate that I read four books a month for relaxation, and another one to two for professional development of some sort or another. While I know I take being a bibliophile to extremes (according to my wife when she views our personal library, with all the shelves it takes up in the house!), I had always assumed that the vast majority of people at least read the occasional book for pleasure.

    I can certainly understand the average American not opening a book for study since high school. I don’t believe it’s wise, but I can see how they would get that way. With the push for digital entertainment, the written word falls further and further behind.

    This trend has shown up time and again as I’ve received new hires for training. They expect the answers to be handed to them, while I was always taught to go to the source document. To not rely on word of mouth and hand me down knowledge when resolving technical troubles. Review the technical documentation, discuss with experienced personnel, then deal with the problem.

    Maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned, but by my definition of ‘good’, this is a bad trend.

    Certainly nostalgia frequently makes us believe things were ‘better’ in our day. Every generation seems to say how easy the current generation has it. How things were ‘better’ in their own. No doubt there is some truth to the view.

    While I am far from pulling up my Depends, and grabbing the Metamucil, it seems I am being pulled into the geriatric camp. I believe a great many changes in society are not ‘good’ at all. Changes to social media, the family unit, expectations in all aspects. They all seem degraded.

  3. Ryan Jackson says:

    Unfortionately the “Give me answer” vs “Go find it myself” is a part of the corporate world in low level positions. I don’t personally like it, but it’s the way it is.

    Not out of any failure in learning, but out of an attempt to keep chain of command intact and “Negativity” to a minimum. Where I work if you’re in one of the entry positions, you bring questions, concerns, etc to your supervisor, and that’s it, you’re not supposed to talk about it at the office out in the open or argue about things being bad. Because it’s felt that reflects poorly on morales.

    Mind you, that changes the moment you get anywhere. From the first position of management it’s the opposite, you’d better not go to your superior with just a problem, you’d better have already thought about it, come up with what you feel would be a good solution, talked it out with your peers and by the time you head to the boss it should be less “We think there’s a problem” and more “Here’s the problem, here’s what we’re going to do about it, let us know if you disagree.”

    It’s honestly kind of a hard line to shift from one to the other, but I’d put it akin to military in some levels. At lower ranks you do what you’re told and don’t make waves. Once you get up the chain though, you’d better start thinking and innovating on your own.

  4. Rehcra says:

    I disagree with your premise of the remainder of the world saying “Has it changed?”. Given anything put specific hard ships or lose the answer would be the same for them as us. They strived to make their lives better for themselves just as everyone else did and does.

    -rehcra

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