I decided to google the title of this blog at the last minute, and learned I’ve been using a phrase incorrectly my entire life. “It’s all uphill from here” means things are only going to get worse, while “it’s all downhill from here” means things are only going to get better. I don’t know why, but downhill sounds negative to me, uphill sounds positive and optimistic. Maybe it’s from growing up in the mountains. I think I’ll stick with uphill.
I hear a lot of people talk about how bad the world is, and how it is only going to get worse. We have a 24 hour a day news media that wants us to believe everything is falling apart because it is the only way we will accept an idea as bad as 24 hour a day news media. I used to buy into this idea, but I found I was continuously confronted with facts that told another story when I paid attention.
I do not think think the world is getting worse at all. I actually believe it is getting better all the time. Think about it. Things that used to be the norm, like owning a slave, beating your wife, beating your kids, and blood feuds with your neighbors are no longer acceptable to a majority of people. When they do happen most of us look on them with contempt and bewilderment that they still exist. Fewer and fewer people have to endure the heartbreak of losing a baby or mother in childbirth, we are eradicating diseases that have plagued us for centuries and there are more and more people pushing back against evils like the sex trade and killing gay people and forced marriage.
Even ISIS, who are probably the biggest assholes on the planet right now, are doing things that have been pretty common in the history of us as a people. The difference is that now a majority of people are horrified by them. Go back a few thousand years in history and you find plenty of people that make ISIS and Al Qaeda seem like a bunch of hippies, and it was business as usual. The fact that we are bothered by what these groups are doing is sign that our collective sense of morality has improved over the millennia.
Even if some of these things experience spikes in activity from time to time, it is hard to deny that the general principles regarding things that bring actual, demonstrable harm to others that we live by as a species are on a positive trajectory. Notice the italics. It’s an important distinction when exploring why people think the world is going to hell. There is a lot of really nasty stuff going on in the world, I don’t think anyone would say there isn’t. As we discussed yesterday, we are powerless to stop much of it. I accept these things, but I have to believe that on the whole we are getting better and better as we go.
It is easy to fall into a negative mentality about the world around us when every bad thing that happens is beamed into our homes and cars and onto our phones every second of every day, but imagine what it would look like if we were getting notifications about everything that was going right. What if CNN and Fox had their front page populated with stories about all the things that are going really well? What if I logged on to Facebook and saw stories about all the amazing things regular people do every single day for other people?
I’ve tried to develop that kind of alert system internally by maintaining an awareness of all the things that are going right. All the people I pass every day who do not hate me or judge me or assault me. All people who stopped to help at a rollover accident I came upon last week and all the police officers and first responders who were just there to help. That I live in a pretty diverse neighborhood and we all get along and nothing has “erupted” (everyone loves that word these days). The fact that riots and shootings and people killing each other and babies dying are the exceptions. They make the news because they are unusual in the big scheme of things.
I have been called a lot of things in my life, but naïve hasn’t often been one of them. The work I do brings me into close contact with some of the worst things people do to each other, but I still think we are improving. I still think the average person is kind and decent and doing the best they can with what they have available to them. This isn’t to say there aren’t problems and that we don’t have a lot of work to do, but the building isn’t on fire. Chaos and death and blood just sell better than the boring reality of people acting right.