In the recent Insider article about the lack of unpreparedness of American cities for a nuclear explosion, one of their “experts” stated that he had apologized to his children and grandchildren for “leaving the world in such a horrible mess.”
(See TPOL’s commentary on the main subject of the Insider article at this page.)
What? The guy seems to be apologizing for his generation (and maybe that of his parents and grandparents), not himself as an individual. I don’t know who appointed him as a spokesman for his generation – even to his own children. The implication seems to be that we had nice things and ruined it all. I do know he is wrong.
As we are in the Christmas Season, with 2020 approaching, it is worth looking back and challenging his view.
What do we have to apologize for?
Certainly, we can apologize for many things as individuals, mostly in the form of missed opportunities to give our children and grandchildren a better world to live in. And many of us must apologize for the way we have raised our children. (But hindsight is 20-20.)
But is there really some sort of collective guilt on the part of older generations? And if that is legitimate, is it justified? Have we really left the world in a horrible mess which is worse than the world into which we were born?
How has the world changed? Especially, how has the Fifty States (and North America) changed? Has it improved or gotten worse?
Going back a quarter century to 1995 – half a century to 1970 – back to 1945 – even a century to 1920 – are we to be ashamed of the world today as compared to those times?
I do not think so. Certainly not of the condition of the world as a whole. And definitely NOT here in the Fifty States.
As a lover of liberty – and as a follower of Christ and a Pahasapan – my perspective is skewed. Objectively, we have serious problems in the world that will be, in AD 2020. I do not challenge that. We do have a “horrible mess” in many ways. But looking back over a century, we have NOT created that horrible mess. Or made it worse.
In 1920, the world was still trying to recover from the bloody mayhem of the Great War – and indeed, war was still raging in Russia and its imperial possessions. The Middle East was roiled, as colonial powers tried to sort out the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The fallen Chinese Empire was the scene of constant battles between the new “Republic” and the warlords. Latin America was seething with rebellions and revolutions: Mexico was still trying to recover from its years of civil war. The world was also still recovering from the impact of the great Influenza epidemic of 1918. Life spans were still short – far too many children were dying very young, and most of the world under some form of tyranny or colonialism. Air travel was really non-existent. Communications was limited to print and telegraphs and a few telephone systems, mostly confined to urban areas. Libraries and colleges existed, but most people had no access to knowledge.
A quarter century later, in 1945, in many ways, things were worse, at least as far as war. Yes, the major fighting of the Second World War had ended, but fighting continued virtually around the world (except for the Americas). And millions would yet die in the aftermath of the war. The empires were crumbling more. Major portions of the developed world were in ruins – far more than 25 years earlier. Yet technology had made vast strides. Medical advances were extending lives (not shortened by war, at least) and saving more children. Although much of the world was ruled by tyrants, those were pretty much the same areas that had been in slavery 25 years earlier, and the colonial system was crumbling rapidly. And communications and transportation had exploded worldwide. Libraries and schools were more and more available, if still limited.
In 1970, the world was still in a mess. But much of Europe had been at peace for decades, and although terrorized by tyrants, China was at least not torn apart by war. The world was rebuilt, colonialism was rapidly dying. Medical advances, and vast improvements in transportation and communications had improved the lives of people around the world. (Not everyone, but more than ever before in the history of the world.) Education and information were much more widely available. And people were starting to understand more and more about the world, the universe, and the threats we faced in ourselves and in nature. And we were in space.
In 1995, despite more wars and violence, colonialism was dead, and more and more people were able to live in relative peace and growing prosperity. Medical advances continued to extend lives and allow better lives. Longterm hazards were being addressed. Food, medicine and other physical goods were more available than ever, to more and more of the world – even though population was soaring. But the real improvements were in communications, transportation, and knowledge: the internet was born and exploding. Despite the wars in many places, the world’s trade routes were safer than ever, and the world’s people reaped the benefits. More and more people were enjoying more and more freedom.
Now, as we near 2020, the world is very much better even than in 1995. Information are now available nearly universally. Advances (medical, communications and transportation) would shock even people from 1970 and 1995. More people live better than ever in the world’s history. And despite wars and more wars, and threats to liberty on every hand, this is no different than 25 or 50 or 75 or 100 years ago. And although some of us have lost a lot of freedom, overall, the level of liberty is still high and in many places much higher. Even though many have lost their way morally and ethically.
This world is NOT perfect (and never will be). This world is STILL a “horrible mess” but that has been the case for all of mankind’s history. Certainly we as individuals and societies have made major mistakes. And will continue to do so.
But overall, as we celebrate the hope that Christmas and the New Year represent to so many, I don’t think we need to apologize. Yes, we wish we could have done better. But the world is better today, in virtually every way, than it has been in memory or in history.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the other holidays that people celebrate!