Sep
09
2018
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Why I am optimistic about the future

Many folks are depressed. Many people I know are withdrawing from social media, unable to process the discourse. Unfriending is going on en-masse, even between people who have been friends for years. Alas, some folks are withdrawing from life completely. 1 in 3 people in the US are on some form of anxiety or depression medication, which apparently is not working. Teen suicides are up 70% over the last 10 years in the US. That's a catastrophe that no one is talking about.

We fear terrorists at every turn, even though deaths by terrorism are lower than drowning in your swimming pool, and far less than deaths by lightning strike. We fear those that are different from us. Everyone is out to get us, to take our jobs, to take away our way of life. This is not a Trump thing. This trend far preceeded his appearance on the political stage. In this country we have become intensely tribal. You're with us or against us, you're a redneck Trumper or a snowflake liberal, my way is right and damn your own opinions.

We don't listen to anyone anymore. When once our centers of learning were beacons of enlightened speech and debate, now professors are fired for using a trigger word, contraversial speakers (read as someone whose opinions differ from mine) are banned from college campuses. We don't want to listen to others' opinions. We block them, unfriend them, and sink further into our bubble universes where the only voices we hear are those like us.

Around the world, nationalism is seizing votes – if not power – in almost every democratic nation. People are fed up. They are getting a raw deal. Their politicians are not representing them, but are instead looking out for their opwn interests, or those of special interest groups (read as those with donation money). People are being displaced from Syria, from Venezuela, from Central American countries. Even in the USA, people get poorer, the rich get richer and the middle class is dying.

It's a horrible picture isn't it? Depressing just to read all that. It seems to many that civilization itself is unravelling.

But the future will be bright.

In no way do I want to trivialize recent events, that is not my intent. It is incredibly serious when some of our most staunch democracies are teetering on the edge. Some days it feels like we are one protest away from full-scale riots. It really does feel as if our way of life is threatened, and we are right to fear that. Humans do not react well to change. We dislike uncertainty. Since the early days of prophets, soothsayers, astrologists and other sages, we have tried to predict the future so that we can become less afraid of it.

Humans are incredibly bad at two things that are applicable here: Risk assessment, and context.

Risk assessment: We fear terrorists yet drive our cars every day on roads where tens of thousands of people die every year. We fear immigrants taking our jobs, while the rich reduce our pay and shed workers without hesitation in the name of profit. We fear people different from us, but every human, whatever race or religion, wants the same thing – to be able to live and support their family. We believe every person with a gun is tomorrow's mass-shooter, while millions of people use their firearms responsibly. It's actually more realistic to assume every car on the road is out to kill you, or that every visit to McDonalds may lead to your death. Statistics regarding traffic accidents and health-related diseases would back up both those cases!

Context: Contrary to what most people believe, crime is significantly down since the 70's and still falling. Immigrants commit less crime than Americans. Poverty worldwide has been on the decline for decades. 98% of terrorist killings take place in third world countries.

And taking context at the macro level, humans have faced enormous trials over our history, far greater than the doom and gloom we seem to revel in today. The Black Death killed off a third of the population. The Dark Ages were horrific. Floods, storms, catastrophic volcanic eruptions that blanketed the world with ash clouds, and two world wars. The little ice age, or Maunder Minimum, nearly led to the destruction of the world's crops.

So why am I optimistic?

Because humans are resilient, incredibly so considering how short term our thinking is. We are resourceful, adaptable. We can tolerate enormous suffering to a point at which we seem to come to a consensus that things must change, and we affect that change. You can see this change coming if you look closely. Nationalism is an ugly front for citizens that have had enough, but under the ugly approach lies a truth that people are tired of the status quo, tired of the way their government does business. Don't get me wrong, I'm not supporting neo-fascist attempts to seize power, purely pointing out that the persons that can redirect that populous surge in a more creative direction will achieve much. More people in the US have taken part in peaceful protest rallies than since the 1960's probably, and those marchers are from all walks of life. Students are beginning to opt out of the viscious trap of student loans in return for a degree that becomes worth less and less. Instead they are travelling, learning trades, or engaging in the portfolio economy (gig economy) and doing their own thing, starting their own business. Similarly, they are opting out of the huge status-symbol houses with a noose of a mortgage in favor of tiny-house living, off-grid living, or nomadic lifestyles.

These latter points might not seem relevant, but they indicate change. People don't like the existing system and seek to change it the best way they know how, by doing it themselves. Think what could happen if the majority of the country decided a vote of no-confidence in their government and voted them all out of office? It can be done. You don't have to vote for these people. If there isn't a suitable candidate in your area, find one, or become one! I applaud every young person now entering into politics, because they see the way the old-school did it and reject those ways, and seek to do something better. Likewise, if we, as a nation, insisted on term limits for politicians, they might worry less about their jobs and spend more time working for we the people.

On a different tack, stop being part of the divisive culture. If you unfriend or block people or refuse to talk to someone whose religion or politics doesn't agree with you, YOU are part of the problem. Hearing opinions we don't like can be painful, but it is vital to a healthy civilization. Don't throw away the wonderful First Amendment. Only by listening to our opponents can we learn and identify where they are coming from. You'll be amazed how much common ground we all have if you take the time. And I mean listen, not just wait for them to stop speaking so you can argue or ram your own opinion down their throats. Everyone I speak to wants to heal the divide. The only way you can do that is to understand and not dismiss. Why does that person like/hate guns? Why does that person fear immigrants? Why does that liberal want to spend my tax dollars on healthcare for all? We have to understand each other. Only then can we find common ground and begin to heal.

This is a phase. It is a crucial learning period for humankind. I know that we rarely learn from our mistakes, but we do modify our behavior. This too shall come to pass, as the saying goes. I believe that the most central core of humanity is a gregarious one. We want to be together. We only need to learn how to do that respectfully and peacefully, and as each challenge occurs – and there will be others – we face it, solve it and move on. We may not agree, we may not love each other, but we should at least learn to respect one another, whatever our beliefs. Once we have respect, we are halfway there.

I'll leave you with this. A few years ago I took a photo in a Denny's diner. An old, fat white guy was having breakfast with a black kid, and they were laughing and chatting. THAT is the core of humanity. Recently I saw a picture online of a Muslim woman wearing a burka smiling and laughing with a rough-looking bearded guy with an AR-15 strapped over his shoulder. These 4 people are humans, people, more alike than unalike. People are not sterotypes. Get to know the real person inside before you judge them.

These 4 people are why I have faith in humanity. Please stop fearing everything, and affect the change you want to see for a bright future for us all.

 

Feel free to discuss below (I have to approve comments because of ad-spam), or find this post on my FB feed.

 

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