Different time periods in our history evoke certain societal atmospheres. From as recent as the colorful and exuberant 1980s to the tough but earnest 1800s, and even as far back as the artistic haven of the Renaissance, we have fantasies of existing in exotic times foreign to us.
We may even believe, on some level, we connect with a certain time period. It’s common to hear youth experienced in only one time period proclaim they were “born in the wrong generation.”
There’s nothing wrong with this harmless idea. However, its radical cousin stands to be a problem. Especially in today’s messy political climate, it’s common to hear people say we’re living in the worst time in history.
Regardless of personal preferences, this line of thinking is empirically incorrect. Not only is it erroneous, but it displays a lack of awareness and appreciation for what we have today.
Our current time is far from perfect. The leader of the free world is a conservative businessman you might hate. If not, then it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have someone in the White House you absolutely can’t stand within your lifetime.
Unemployment and homelessness exist in first-world nations, and famine still exists in third-world countries. Bigots persist with no hope of going away any time soon. Racists, misogynists, misandrists, classists and much more can be found anywhere we go.
The other universal constant — crime — is still alive and well. Civilians get killed by lunatics with assault weapons in schools, churches and night clubs.
It would be a foolish to claim we’re living in the ideal time period. Regardless, we’re living in the best time in history to date.
Democracy is alive and well in the west, and men and women of all colors and creeds can participate. This is important to contrast from the overwhelming preponderance of tyrannical governments from the past.
Unlike in the Middle Ages, our head of state is no king. In contrast to a monarch’s unmatched power, our president is checked by a large and varied system of organizations. Political parties are messy, but they’re a brobdingnagian improvement over a “divine” ruler’s ability to execute anyone for any reason.
Although bigots are still here, our lawmakers employ policies to reduce the effects of bigotry in applicable situations. We have people looking out for the little guy. Power in the west may still be dominated by white men, but people of all kinds can and do rise the ranks and achieve things much greater than their ancestors could have ever dreamed of.
Though we discourage and penalize acts of bigotry, we cannot be punished for having bigoted thoughts and preferences. This freedom of thought is a vital component for a prosperous society — more ideas moving throughout political and philosophical spheres is likely to provide more compromises benefiting everyone in some way.
It’s impossible to sing the praises of the present without mentioning modern medicine. The discovery and commercialization of advances like penicillin have saved millions of lives. Ordinary diseases fatal to humans hundreds of years ago have become trivial. We even have vaccines as generally effective preventative measures.
As of 2018, life expectancy is at 74 years for women and 70 for men. The U.S. boasts higher numbers with women at 81 years and men at 76 years. Economist Max Roser’s research on living conditions suggests the highest life expectancy in 1800 is lower than the lowest of today.
To top it off, it’s likely you’re reading this on a computer. The internet is a staple of both our private and professional lives today. Most of us can’t even imagine life without the internet. We live in a technological society, and advancement shows just as much of a sign of stopping as crime.
We should always take care to realize what we have and appreciate it. Once we observe how great life is today, we can start taking steps to make tomorrow even better. This is what our ancestors spent their lives doing, and it’s what we can do today to make the future a better place.
Kyle Richoux is a 20-year-old sociology sophomore from LaPlace, Louisiana.