This I Believe


Things Are Looking Up

When National Public Radio launched its re-make of Edward R. Morrow’s “This I Believe,” I was almost motivated to take a shot at making an entry. I say almost because I just never got around to doing it. I thought about it a bunch. Even my subject and position were clear in my head. Never happened. Darn.

Not to let a well formed idea go totally unpublished, here ‘tis.

It’s simple. Things are getting better. Generally speaking and on a long time scale, that is. Of course some things are getting worse; they always are, but most of the downers are on shorter time scales. And any such judgment on the better/worse balance has to reflect a cosmic perspective, no small task in our quarter-to-quarter, Wall Streetish culture.

I have to admit, attaining cosmicity hasn’t been my strong suit. If you riffle through all the posts on this blog, you can’t help but note that I’ve been much more vocal on worsenings than betterings. Drought, wars, political chicanery, hypocrisy, rotten journalism… you get the drift. But when I lean back on a ponderosa pine in my back yard, clear my mind of the irritants floating through the news-o-sphere and think BIG, my conclusion is that things are, in fact, getting better.

This all started when I was taking umbrage at Fox News. Or maybe it was at the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (my favorite newspaper – except for the editorial page), or some right wing talk radio show or a dumb letter to the editor in our neighborhood paper The Independent. It just so happens I was reading 1776 by David McCullough, shortly after reading his John Adams, and not that long after reading An Instinct for War by Roger Spiller the noted military historian. The unexpected result of this confluence of the past and the present was Aha!

(Aha!s are natural wonders. Some people get them in the form of religious experiences, others under the influence of psychedelics, so getting one from three history books and the starboard tilt of our contemporary “press” can’t be all that common.)

The point being: No matter how unhappy I might be with the state of journalism, it has been a lot worse than it is now, perhaps never worse than during the birth pangs of the U.S.A. Notables like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton used the press like blunt instruments, buying not only editorials, but whole swaths of reportage to foster their points of view, including slander of their enemies. Not that we don’t have slander these days, but relatively speaking it’s not that pervasive.

And that was the start of it. I started looking at other not-as-bad situations. OK, so millions are starving, victims of genocide, ecological disasters and disease, but it has been worse historically speaking, great plagues, famines and all. OK, there are wars, terrorism, insurgencies and revolutions around the world, but it’s been worse, World Wars and all. So there is illiteracy, ignorance and misinformation all over, but it’s been worse, near universal illiteracy for instance before the printing press.

See? Once you get in the swing of things and don’t limit the historical scale you can tread to find a comparison, the case makes itself. THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER.

Generally speaking. And on a long time scale.

This I believe.

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