Friday, February 15, 2019

Things Seem Worse as Things Get Better

For centuries, things have been going to hell, the next generation has been disappointing, the language has been bastardizing, and we've been heading in the wrong direction. In my 56 years I haven't seen a single New Years Eve where anyone said "You know, this was a damn good year!" It's always "Good frikkin' riddance!"

It’s all been going straight to hell ever since Ancient Greece, and yet here we are. Vastly healthier, safer, more comfortable, entertained, and well-fed than any human beings anywhere ever. Vastly less violence, pestilence, racism, sexism, and war. It's been falling apart for as far back as we can remember, even as it's all come together, and despite the fact that we're obviously the generation our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents sacrificed for.

If you think this is First World gloating, consider the most startling fact of all: extreme poverty is down almost 36% over a mere 25 years (1990 thru 2015). That's crazy!

As I wrote earlier this week, it's NOT all turning to shit. And yet people are angrier, more pessimistic and stressed and fearful and outraged than ever. Why? Here's the answer, seldom-observed: wealthy people (you, yes you, are unfathomably wealthy) behave like aristocrats, and we are princes and princesses afflicted by greater and greater vexation over smaller and smaller mattress peas.

As I wrote in that last link:
Unfortunately, the present crop of humans - with its unique wealth, health, comfort, interconnection, and security - is uniquely prone to terror. We may not fully register what we have, but we sure as hell fear its loss. We may not acknowledge our wealth, but we typify the “more to lose” anxieties of the wealthy. Hence our hair trigger.
I realize we're a dim and blinkered species, so allowances must be made. But how many millennia will it take before we get even the slightest perspective, and recognize that we have some very serious problems with how we frame it all? My guess is it will never happen. Rather, we'll perish en masse from the infinite pain caused by the last infinitesimal speck of displeasure.

For some reason, I enjoy the bejesus out of life here in the future, even cognizant of the irritants and non-optimalities. In fact, I giggle as I walk...and people glare at me for it. Remember when I contrasted (here) the framing of finding things hilarious vs the framing of "it's not funny"? Ever contrarian, I opt for the former in an increasingly humorless, angry, scowling society.

BTW, if you feel likewise, DVR Nichole Wallace's show on MSNBC. She manages sober analysis of our national politics (by far the best on TV; her guests are ace) while never losing touch with its slapstick comedy aspect. Same goes for the invaluable Rick Wilson on Twitter.

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