The best of times, the worst of times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” Tale of Two Cities p. 1

Is today the best of times or the worst of times? Are we progressing to a brighter future or are we going directly the “other way”? Often I hear laments of the social and moral decay of the modern world in the recent decades so I wanted to celebrate the good things.

I think most of us can appreciate the technical and medical advancements, improvements, and inventions over the last century. Life expectancy has doubled, many horrible diseases have been eradicated from developed countries, inventions like washing machines, cars, ac, etc make life MUCH more comfortable, we can video chat with family & friends across the world, and with a cell phone we can research and learn pretty much anything from anywhere. Comfort and health has vastly increased and the world is at our fingertips.

And I feel the we have also made many advances socially and morally, but I’ve often heard, particularly at church, how things are getting worse and worse (morally & culturally) over the last 50-100 years – immorality, violence, drugs, porn, etc are increasing and the “last days” are nearing (particularly with the developed world in mind). So I wanted to share why I think “the world” is an amazing place and is getting better and better:

 -          Women can now vote, have access to contraception (did you know The Pill was not legal in all of the US until 1972!?!), go to college, and hold practically any job they want. Huge pros! Maybe we have a few slightly neglected children because women choose to not be stay-at-home moms, but women now have career options besides prostitution and low-paying jobs that can’t provide for a family. (And I know many wonderful moms who work.) I’m not saying women should not be stay-at-home moms (that is still an option), but women now have more choices. Women can choose when and how many children they want. If women want to go to medical school, law school, or work in a variety of places, they can. If a woman is a single parent and needs to provide for her family it is possible.

 -          Civil rights movement. Big pro! It is no longer acceptable to be racist. We even have an African-American president! You may not like his politics but for America that is amazing considering the prevailing attitudes and policies just a few decades ago. I’m not saying the issue is completely solved, but we have made big improvements over the last 100 years.

 -          Acceptance of various lifestyles. Non-married/teen moms are no longer completely shunned by society (think Les Mis) and can live a respectable life. Gays and lesbians can (hopefully) live without fear of being fired or mistreated because of their sexual orientation. Woman do not stay in abusive marriages as much because the social stigma of divorce is not nearly as strong. People shouldn’t have to hide who they are to be accepted by society. And I’m sure hiding who you are is not healthy for anyone (it didn’t really work out well for Fantine in Les Mis). Of course there are, what some consider, costs to being more accepting and giving people more agency – we have more children born out of wedlock, higher divorce rates, and variations of families that some do not approve of, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. People need agency and I think people are happier and better off. It is okay if we have a higher divorce rate if it means people aren’t stuck in bad marriages. It is better to love and accept everyone and make them feel like they can be a part of society without hiding who they are, even if there are more variations in the traditional family unit (single parents, stay-at-home dads, non-married couples, gays, & lesbians, etc.).

 -          Violence. I’m not an expert on the trend in violent crimes over the last hundred years and I’m not a fan of violent video games. However, I googled murder rates in the US and it looks like they were pretty low in the 1960s (= 4.6 per 100,000 in 1963), increased through the 80s (equaled 10.2 in 1980), and then came back down. In 2011, the murder rate was 4.8 per 100,000 people, which is fairly low considering the low since 1900 was 4 per 100,000 in 1957. So from looking at US murder rates, it seems violence is on a downward trend over the last 30 years. However they are still a bit high compared to some other developed countries.

 We live in an awesome world! There are so many opportunities especially if you live somewhere like America. And overall it seems to me that America is a better place than 100 years ago. Besides the higher standards of living and comforts of washers/dryers/cars/etc and improved medical treatments, I feel the morality of society have improved as well.

I feel that over the past century equality has improved immensely — and by equality I mean equal rights and opportunity. Women know have many opportunities that were previously denied — voting, going to college, contraception, and job opportunities. Civil rights demands that no one should be denied opportunity due to race, color of skin, or country of your ancestors origin. Being accepting of various lifestyles (single moms, working moms, stay-at-home dads, gays & lesbians, non-married couples, etc) allows everyone the pursuit of happiness. America was founded to protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and the only reason someone’s rights should be taken from them is if they are infringing on the rights of someone else (ie a murderer). A lot has been done in the last century to further establish a land of freedom and equal opportunity. Now this may mean that some people make choices that you disagree with but I think it’s worth it.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “The best of times, the worst of times

  1. Dad

    The sterotypes and catagories that kept change and progess from happening in years past are fading away, but in many ways we still need to find balance in our political and economic systems in order for our nation and our culture to survive.

    During the 1950′s, the infint mortality rate and the teen pregnancy rate of minorities was low. After the creation of the Great Society and the War on Poverty that was implimented by the Johnson Administration in the 1950′s, unwanted pregnancys and poverty among women of all racial and social genres skyrocketed. The replacement of the government as the porvider in many familiys hindered economic growth and stypheled creativity amongst many people, who would have felt the need to create their own income instead of looking to the government for the basic necessities.

    Our economic growth is based on a system that measures its sucess on the amount of consumer spending, insteading of mesureing the amount of wealth people obtain, and the amount of growth people experience in their personal equity. Instead if encoraging people to develop their own wealth, our system teaches people to spend their money as fast as possible.

    And yes women have more choices then they used to, but we can and must do better as a nation in providing relevent and practial education for our youth, so they can move into high paying jobs over time. High Schools in our nation do not teach what I was taught as a child in high school. Relevent skills and vocational skills are rearely offered. And community colleges do not offer many training programs that teach skills that local communities need. For example, in my home town of Mesa, Arizona, most of the employees hired by the city to work on power lines and reapair our streets and bridges are illegal aliens. That’s becuase the skills needed to fill theses jobs are not taught in our local schools and community colleges. Our local politicans are asleep at the wheel.

    Recently our federal government shut down for more than two weeks, costing our economy $28B dollars. Our federal government has become so polorized it struggles to find soultions to real issues like immigration reform, and demostrates complete incompetence when implementing government run programs like the Afordable Care Act.

    I am proud of the changes Tey has so expertly pointed out. And my hope is the we can identify the challanges we have in our nation, meet them and resolve them, so things can keep getting better.

    James Schollian
    Tey’s Dad.

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  2. chelsey schollian

    So I just wrote this long comment and then deleted it /: I agree that it is a good thing that society as a whole is becoming more accepting of all types of people. Some people view this as a downward spiral of immorality, unfortunately. I think that comparing uneducated women to prostitutes or only capable of having low paying jobs is a little insensitive , although I do see the point since women used to have to sink to those positions since there was no other options . I think that our government has definitely gone a little down hill in the recent years. Over all I am very glad to live in america and have freedom and choices . I am glad that all people can be accepted and do what makes them happy ( as long as it doesn’t hurt other people) . Great article love you

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  3. munyans Post author

    Thanks for the comments! Someone on Facebook said ” Some of each, but I think the world is better as a whole. The things you mentioned are better–I’d much rather live now than in, say, the 60s. There are some things which are worse, in my view. There is more slavery, including sex trafficking, than ever before. I think women are more objectified and that the standard of beauty is more unattainable than ever. I think people’s views, especially politically, have become so polarized and people are less civil than they used to be. But on the whole, I’ll take greater knowledge, technology, medicine, fairness, and rights any day.”

    She pointed out some things that we still need to work on, some of which are similar to what you said Dad — that less polarization and more civility in politics and less objectification of women is needed. I also like what you said Dad about going away from a consumeristic society that bases our value on what we consume/purchase and that we need to improve education, particularly so that we can fill skilled jobs.

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