Well, for one thing, we don’t ornament our roadways and bridges with the decapitated heads of our enemies, cause, you know, the smell of rotting flesh is downright revolting.
And no one gets sacrificed, even when it doesn’t rain for a long long time.
And today, even if you lose your legs, you could, potentially, still climb mountains with superman-like robotic legs, which is totally AWESOME!
These days, it is generally understood that the best way to empty chamber pots is not to throw the contents out the window onto the street below.
And hey, we don’t even use chamberpots!
Today, virgins are just people who haven’t had sex, really, which does not make them prime candidates for human sacrifice.
And you do not see ads for slave auctions in your local almanac, cause enslaving fellow humans just wasn’t a good idea – EVER.
Could we be doing better?
Yeah, we could. Because any nation where 20 six year olds could be gunned down in their classroom needs to do some serious self-reflection.
But thankfully, we’ve come around to the realization that eccentric quirky behavior and a penchant for solitude is not a sure sign that you are a witch and should be burned at the stake in the village square for the general amusement of the townsfolk.
And when a 16 year old girl is raped, we don’t just say, “Well, boys will be boys…”.
We don’t shoo homeless orphaned children off our front doorsteps because starving homeless children are unsightly (and probably infested with lice)!
And as a woman, my worth today is not even partially calculated by my skill at needlepoint. In fact, I am not required to even know what needlepoint is, exactly.
The Ed Geins of the world aside, we no longer think that human skulls make good cereal bowls.
“Whipping boy” is just a handy metaphor, and not a literal concept that anyone would think was a good idea.
And no one still thinks that fights to the death or public hangings, floggings, or beheadings are a good fun way to spend Sunday with the kids.
You don’t have to use your basic math skills when planning the size of your family to figure out that you’ll need to have sixteen babies (if at the end of the day you can’t get by with less than 4 to tend the fields), which allows for 12 of them to perish before they’ve got the manual dexterity to dig for potatoes.
Is there still work to do? You better believe it.
But at least no one has to worry that if the tomatoes in your garden get leaf spot and die… well, someone around here (or at least a goat or something) is going to have to go in order to appease disgruntled gods.
We get that mental illness is medical in nature and most likely not the result of demonic possession. Whew.
And someone figured out that that gray porridge-y looking stuff inside your skull isn’t just filler.
Holding the #1 spot on the food chain, we have even extended our protection to other species (unless, of course, you have the misfortune to be a rat/mouse/tick/cockroach/lice/flea/ant… or are very yummy when roasted).
And today, if the neighbors discover that you have chained your 13 children in your house for years and regularly deprive them of food, they don’t just shrug and say, “Well, I guess that’s how they do it in the Turpin Family.” They call the goddam police!
If you cheat on your partner, your neighbors don’t throw rocks at you until you die.
And we’ve moved past the notion that the small height and width of children make them absolutely perfect for cleaning chimneys and other cramped tiny spaces.
We know now that an annual bath just isn’t enough to give one a clean fresh smell all the year long.
And when hearts are removed from dead people today, it is usually not as an offering to the gods, it’s to replace the damaged heart of a living person with a better one, which is pretty f**king cool.
Do we have work to do?
Well, as long as I can drive by a homeless encampment on my way to Target in one of the richest zip codes in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yeah, I’d say we have work to do.
We have a lot of work to do. But it’s also important to notice the progress we are making.
If we only ever focus on what is wrong and on everything broken, unfair, and bad in the world, we can be tricked into believing our efforts are futile, and so why bother, really, especially when there’s a new season of Ted Lasso to watch.
The World Is Getting Better
The world is getting better, not by every measure, but in a lot of very meaningful ways.
There is an extraordinary book on this topic (if you’d like to dive deeper), – Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World–And Why Things Are Better Than You Think Paperback – April 7, 2020, by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling.
Note, the links below are affiliate:
But don’t take my word for it:
“One of the most important books I’ve ever read―an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” ―Bill Gates
“Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.” ―Former U.S. President Barack Obama
Hans Rosling was an expert in his field. He used data to assess the state of the world and he became intrigued by why most people, even the best and the brightest, have an overly negative and inaccurate view of life on planet earth today. Hans walks us through the mind traps and false presumptions that lead us to make these errors in judgement.
I know I walked away from this book a wiser human.