Things have been worse. With so many alarming topics to talk about today, there are people who have chosen to believe we have somehow ended up in the worst of all possible worlds. We haven't, but if we're not careful, we might. Isn't that the way it always is? This is not a perfect world. If it were, everything would be different. But it isn't, and so it is what it is, and as always, we have a choice, to let our fears get the best of us, or to somehow master them, because our first thoughts are always exaggerated ones, ones if we rethought would reveal themselves for what they really are. I think the problem is, with so many options to talk about our thoughts, we have somehow diminished the need to think about our thoughts, and all we do is react. Reaction is good. It's how we know what we feel. But this is not a world where feeling alone defines reality. Humans are uniquely capable of setting aside feelings (it can be difficult, I know), and giving our reactions a proper consideration. Somehow, I think we've forgotten that. We've forgotten that we have the ability to analyze things. By that, I don't mean to compartmentalize, fit into a predetermined set of conclusions. We've unfortunately allowed ourselves to fall into the mindset where phrases like "survival of the fittest" and "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it," meaningful and yet unproductive concepts that when put to the test don't mean what they seem to, define how we think. "Survival of the fittest" is intended to explain why nature works the way it does. And yet humans don't fit that model, and any attempt to explain otherwise ignores what we would otherwise understand, if we gave it half the thought it deserves: The phrase, in human context, would read, "Survival of advantage."
Everyone has advantages, which is to say skills. The problem is that some skills are easier to identify, and easier for others to understand, easier to exploit in whatever model the person in question is attempting to enter. Skills alone don't determine worth. Skills are rarely even the qualification we use to make decisions. More often than not, we make decisions based on social conclusions. "Survival of social skills," maybe.
History is a funny thing. It's easy to see parallels in history, and it takes a clever person to see them, admittedly, but no two situations are ever exactly alike, and it takes an even more clever person to see that. "Those who don't see the distinctions history makes are doomed to continue making mistakes," perhaps. But that seems too clumsy, so it's probably easier to default to the original statement, no matter how flawed. How about, "Those who make mistakes make history." Well, that's just obvious. Because history is really a history of mistakes, no matter how much we like to claim otherwise. Still, it's not very inspiring, is it? "Those who strive for success make history." Good, but not enough of a moral. "Those who understand they're fallible will make the best history." Too pat. "Those who don't learn history are doomed for limited perspectives." I kinda like that one.
These are tiny examples. This is what considering things beyond the most basic level looks like. Most of the time, you'll hear people argue for trying to see it from a variety of perspectives, but in doing so you run the risk of losing perspective. At a certain point, judgment comes into the equation. You have to decide where you stand. What people so often forget is that you don't have to choose between extremes. You really can fall somewhere in the middle. Somehow, this became a thought crime. In school, the students who are merely average don't count for anything, and somehow this mindset is taken to generalize that you must be at an extreme to matter. This is absurd.
Yet this is a polarized world, at the moment. That's exactly how people are thinking. Each side is so convinced they're right, they're not even willing to give the other side any credit. That's lazy and clumsy thinking. It's about picking sides, and nothing else. Hey, picking sides like that leads to worse things, not better. Is that what we really want? I hope not. I like to believe people really aren't that bad. But they can be misled.
So I guess what I'm saying is, if you're feeling as if we've somehow entered a doomsday scenario, remember that you have a choice. You can choose to look beyond the rhetoric, on whatever alarming topic you've chosen to fixate, and look for a better way. Because there's always a better one, and things really have been worse. We have a chance to make things better. But it starts by acknowledging our complicity in making things look worse, at least at the moment. In this uniquely hypersocial environment, in this unique moment in history, we can do better. We just have to try.