Are things worse than they ever were?

Do you ever feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket? Doesn’t it always seem like we’re on the brink of just slipping into the abyss? Between politics and corporations, Twitter and ADHD, shootings, crime rates, loose morals, and constant media bombardment, this is the low point of humanity, right? I seriously can’t tell if things are worse than they’ve ever been, or maybe if I’m just older and only now realizing how bad it’s always been.

Then along came this comic from xkcd, which absolutely floored me. He’s pulled out quotes from the late 1800s to early 1900s that could have easily been from today. It’s absolutely eerie; the quotes are expressing things like fear that all the advanced and rapid communication would rot the brain, society was on the brink of total disaster and things were better in the “good old days”, the art of conversation was lost, the pace of invention was destroying the world, even that the sanctity of marriage was in danger because of society’s loose morals (in the hovertext). You could directly apply those quotes in the modern day by only changing a word or two.

I find this oddly comforting.  It makes me feel a little better when things are awful and miserable to know that things have *always* been awful and miserable. After all, all those people worrying 200 years ago were wrong; so doesn’t it stand to reason that worrying about the exact same things today is most likely just as wrong?

Politics in particular frequently get me down. When that happens, I just remind myself of old Charles Sumner. That’s right, there was a time in our country where a senator was actually beaten unconscious right there on the floor of the senate. Say what you want about the current state of politics, but it quite clearly has not sunk to it’s lowest possible form (you know, to say nothing of the entire Civil War).

So, no, the answer is that things are NOT worse than they ever were. They’re mostly just the same, and in some cases quite a bit better. “The sky is falling!” has been the status quo for at least 200 years, and probably will be for 200 more.

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