The world is good and getting better
March 31st, 2017 by Mike Coughlin
Shootings and terrorism. One after another. Racism. Riots. All day, every day.
No. The world does not suck. The world is getting better. The world is worth it.
I’m not some rosy optimist by nature – I’m a borderline nihilistic deadbeat. But who I am doesn’t matter, it’s what this world is that matters. And this world is good. This world is better than it has ever been. This world will keep getting better. What we see on TV, a man shooting two people while filming himself doing so, are aberrations. It is news because by definition news is something out of the ordinary. We see it on a 24 hour news cycle. Blame CNN. Blame FoxNews. Blame MSNBC.
Or don’t watch.
That we have access to all the news of the world, so much so that we can almost lose perspective of how mundane and ordinary life is, speaks volumes about the world today.
The internet. The ability to sit and use your fingers and eyes and have access to every single piece of information, every bit of knowledge, that has ever existed is … something we carry in our pockets and usually ignore because we get to send text messages – instant communication to friends and family. Correspondence between families separated by thousand of miles no longer take months to arrive, they take nanoseconds.
I have voicemails from my dead father. His final words to me. Recorded forever. More than three years later I can hear my father say, “Good-bye.”
In spite of Jenny McCarthy’s best efforts smallpox doesn’t exist. One of the deadliest diseases ever does not exist. After
centuries millennia of people dying from a disease it can never again kill.
AIDS makes its breakthrough to the world in the 1970s/1980s and within 20 years we have engineered drugs sufficient that what was once an automatic death sentence of months is essentially a treatable condition.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 million people in two years. 50,000-100,000 people died every single day.
In 2009, the Swine Flu emerged. It was the same strain of virus as the Spanish Flu (H1N1). Total deaths worldwide: 14,000. It isn’t just the rich countries that are getting better: the rising tide is lifting us all.
After the Tsunami wrecked havoc to Indonesia, the world sent so much free food that there were calls for the practice to stop: the food was making it more difficult for farmers to sell locally. The world had too much free food for an area.
Back to the terror of the shootings. I’ve personally not watched because I see no value to my life in doing so but everyone in the world is rightfully mortified. Same as when we see beheadings and other acts of wanton murder broadcast everywhere. Yet, a few centuries ago it was common for crowds to gather and watch as a man was hung by the neck, his belly slashed, and his innards spilled out into the street. Normal people went towards such acts to watch. Now we have them essentially forced upon us. Our collective morality has gotten better. We as a world, as a society, are more sensitive, more thoughtful. We are better.
And things are only improving at a faster and faster rate. In 50 years, black people in America went from marching for the right to simply use a water fountain to the nation electing a black man as president. In less than 100 years, women went from not having the right to even vote to a woman currently being most likely the next president. And what’s more: none of this seems odd.
Seemingly overnight, gay rights go from a struggle to something that most don’t even think about. True progress isn’t when the good guys win, or the right side wins. It’s when no one even realizes there’s a war anymore. It isn’t that pro or anti gay rights camps won out, it’s that to the average person it’s a non-issue.
We as a world have simultaneously increased and decreased abortions. Increased as they became legal and the procedures thus performed under greater medical care, making them safer for the mother (would have been mother? I’m not sure the term). They have decreased in that access to birth control is universal. “The Pill” is cheaper per month for many women than a single bottle of wine. Condoms are literally handed out for free everywhere you go.
Jonas Salk cured polio and gave it away for free, saving the lives of who knows how many millions.
A man walked on the moon.
We know what MARS looks like.
The lifespan of a human being increases every year. We are almost at an average lifespan of 80. Average. People used to die by 35. Yes, some of that was skewed by a greater infant mortality rate but: WE HAVE REDUCED THE INFANT MORTALITY RATE!
Fewer people anguish in silence with depression and anxiety as more people speak up. We don’t take “crazy people” and put them in an institution and look away: we treat them, the best we can. It’s hardly great. It’s a work in progress. But that’s just it: it is in progress.
No doubt, there are people who only want to make money, or who want to “treat not cure” but there are just as many toiling away doing the opposite.
My mother’s best friend – a woman so close to me and my family that I proudly call her Aunt Amy – is one of the world’s leading researchers on Multiple Sclerosis. She runs clinical trials at Loyola University here in Chicago. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Aunt Amy is hurting for money, but I also know that she flies around the world, speaking at conferences, dedicating herself to spreading knowledge to help treat MS, so much that she probably logs more air miles than all but 1000 people. And that’s not an exaggeration.
And the moment her plane lands, she often goes straight to the hospital to run clinical trials, to check in on her patients. And this is for MS, a terrible, horrible disease, but one which effects roughly 2-3 million people in a year, and kills fewer than 50,000. This isn’t curing cancer, where the breakthrough could result in untold billions in profits. This is work done by people to help a proportionately small number of people. I love my Aunt Amy. More than she will ever know but even I know that she is just one of thousands of people just like her: dedicating their life to helping. That’s all she does, all day: helps people.
Every day, the world seems to get closer and closer to fusion based energy. Heck, we “harnessed the atom” and at first built a bomb, sure, but then figured out how to use it to create one of the most efficient and plentiful forms of energy ever, one which leaves a devastating environmental footprint – but a footprint that is the size of a toddler’s, not an elephant like other forms of energy.
Two bombs went off. Tens of thousands died. Maybe hundreds of thousands more were spared. But: There are currently 438 active nuclear power plants earth and what they do is produce energy that saves lives. That powers the world.
I visited New York properly for the first time. I went to a spectacular museum with a man I know because of the Internet – and whom I now know as one of the legitimate best people out there. I saw statues. Art. Paintings. Beauty. From now. From a thousand years ago. All created by man.
And it was free. Untold beauty. So much so that you could weep at how overwhelming it all was, there to be enjoyed as was intended: for free.
I can look at my mother. A near 25 year survivor of cancer. A woman who every single Wednesday for decades went and supported women in a similar position. Who watched friends get healthy. Who buried friends as science failed. And who never quit going until there was no one left. Decades. No money. No reward. No newspaper article. Nothing but helping someone. Helping one person was all anyone cared about.
A lot of really really terrible things happen in the world. We see it every day. But I will be damned if I let anyone tell me this world is bad. That it isn’t worth us ALL fighting for.
This is a good world. And it’s getting better.