Monday, December 31, 2012

The Glass Is Half Full

      At this time of year, people tend to look back at the year that was and include some wishes or hopes for the new year. To me, new year's day is just a day. The year begins at other times in other cultures. It is likeliest a time for some ancestor worship and and/or keeping the bogeyman away.  Whether you spend most of your time glancing back or looking forward depends not a little on your age ( I think the younger ones look forward) and your attitude towards life. Is life getting better or is it getting worse? Is the glass half empty or is it half full? I think, in spite of my age, I am an optimist and I declare the glass to be half full. I don't just read medieval literature; I really enjoy science fiction.
      So what is a medievalist to do on New Years when she prefers to look forward? Well, she should remind everybody where we have been and why she thinks life has gotten better in the long run.

      In my own lifetime, I have lived with the threat of global nuclear war, global pandemic, overpopulation, global water and food shortages, destruction of our environment, global warming, gun violence on an increasingly horrific scale, the global economy with the banking meltdown and race to the bottom for worker's wages and rights, and, if that isn't enough, a possibility of a direct hit by an asteroid. We live in a culture of fear that is fostered by the media. Some of these threats are very real but something or someone will go on even if I drop out of the story.
     People have been predicting the end of the world for a long time. There were messianic figures in Roman Palestine who were predicting the end of the world. A thousand years later, people were looking for the second coming of Jesus to end the world. Two thousand years later, people were convinced the computers would all crash and life as we know it would end. The Black Death must have convinced people the time was near as nearly two thirds of Europe died. The Hundred Years War and the rampant noble brigands who tormented the peasantry, a mini ice age, the viking raids, the fall of Rome to the barbarian hordes, 1066 and the Norman Conquest, and so many other events like World War I and II must have convinced people then that the world had gone mad and the end was at hand. People suffered and died but human life went on.
      Life had gotten better for most people. Women were declared to be 'persons' under the law. We have courts and most of us can seek redress for wrongs through them. True, there still seems to be one set of rules for the wealthy and one for the rest of us but at times the righteous win their cause. Torture is not routine but is socially unacceptable and occasionally even punished. Women can own property in many parts of the world and have access to education. We have cured many diseases. We understand about bacteria and waterborne, as well as air-borne pathogens. Child mortality has declined in most parts of the world (I think). You get the drift. The pendulum seems to be swinging back a little (or alot, it remains to be seen which) as it will do but, over the long run, we have made progress.
      So Happy New Year, gentle reader and stay positive.


Anachronist said...

After your great post there is really no other possibility than to stay positive. It is true that we live in a world which is far from perfect, tainted by corruption, hypocrisy, greed and crime. I don't doubt that there are parts of our world where people, children among them, are starving and dying due to illnesses more or less eliminated in Western hemisphere countries. Still it has been much worse.

We live in a culture of fear that is fostered by the media.

I couldn't agree more. There is no better news than bad news and the media love making us afraid while they should make us aware. Oh well. Still the glass is half full.

The Red Witch said...

And I think people are aware that the news agencies are corrupt and not entirely to be trusted.
There will always be injustice and strife. Aldous Huxley wrote a novel, A Brave New World, about what a world without struggle would look like and it was no better.