I wonder why we think about “today’s world” largely in the negative. The phrase itself, “in today’s world,” seems to suggest some kind of condemnation. “In today’s world, young people feel entitled,” I read on Facebok. Just a few hours later, in conversation, I hear, “In today’s world, people are so impolite.”
Why are we so negative with respect to our own time? Why are we prone to generalize about the shortcomings of the world in which we are so blessed to live? No one in the past ever felt entitled? The aristocrats of 18th century France come to mind, and they paid a very heavy price. Were people not impolite in the past? Socrates thought they were. He complained about the youth of his time: "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise." It seems that both rudeness and entitlement were problems in the fourth century BCE.
What would happen if, instead, we used the phrase, “in today’s world” to list the gifts of our own time? Let’s try it.
· In today’s world, society is making progress against crime. The homicide rate in Canada has fallen to 1.44 victims per 100, 000 population, the lowest rate since 1966, according to Statistics Canada.
· In today’s world, a political party can win an election against all odds without using attack ads (see Liberal Party of Canada, 2015 general election campaign).
· In today’s world, I can stay in touch with friends more easily because of technology.
· In today’s world, ordinary people give hundreds of dollars to help people they don’t even know.
· In today’s world, poverty rates are falling. The UN's latest development report states that poverty reduction drives in the developing world are exceeding all expectations. It says: "The world is witnessing a epochal 'global rebalancing' with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new 'global middle class'. Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast."
· In today’s world, wars kill fewer people, slightly up from 2005, but down from the early 1970’s, and way down from the 1940’s.
· In today’s world, it is no longer a crime to be a homosexual.
· In today’s world, 86% of children in the world are immunized from polio and diphtheria.
· In today’s world, First Nations people can vote (only since 1960!).
· In today’s world, more women have control over their own lives than ever before.
· In today’s world, thanks to Internet and Smartboards, a teacher can bring the world to the classroom. No more ordering films six months in advance, or ordering books for a classroom project from the provincial library to supplement the school library collection.
Are there issues in our world that need work? Of course. There have always been. The question is, why are we so nostalgic for a past that seems better to us, maybe even ideal, a golden age. I’ve often wondered what golden age people would want for their own lifetime? How would it possible to avoid genocide, famine, war, assassinations, dictatorships, apartheid, economic depressions, natural disasters, disease, witch hunts of all kinds, revolution, inquisitions, bad government, discrimination, forced marriages, religious persecution, poor houses, child labour? As for me and my house, we will take our own era, with all its challenges and its blessings.
That’s why, although I never make New Year’s resolutions, I think 2016 is a great year to break my resolve. This year, I propose to use the phrase “in today’s world” to praise and publicize the good in our world rather than to denigrate any of its inhabitants or conditions.
New Year’s resolution for 2016:
Use the phrase “in today’s world” to point out the good and the goodness of our era.