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From the Archives: To hell in a handbasket

Published 11-01-1997 in “The Why!? Paper.”

To hell in a Handbasket.   Is that where the world is really going?

We hear an awful lot about how today’s society is falling apart around us; rebellions in Africa, mutual genocide in Bosnia, car bombs exploding in England, and retaliations in Ireland.  The list is endless.  Even in America we have had the World Trade Center bombing, ruby ridge, Oklahoma City, Olympic Park, Waco, the IRS.  All around us we see the evils of man’s society staring us in the face, and we cringe at its ugliness.   In our mind’s eye we remember the days when things seemed to be going so much better, and feel the need to return to the ‘good old days’, to days where we hold fond memories of caring and companionship and nice neighbors. 

We see these things and think these thoughts inspired by fond memories, but in doing so we forget ourselves.    We have developed (as a culture) an interestingly selective memory.  And it’s not really our memory that’s at fault, but rather the advancement of technology that has given us this skewed view of our situation.  As has been true for countless generations, our view of society is limited by, or expanded through, the availability of information.  It has been that flow of information that has allowed us to view the happenings of the world from our living rooms and read of the fate of nations over breakfast.  And in our age of instant information, we see the constant warring of our neighbors and of lands far off. 

We hear of the rampant corruption in Mexico, and the latest missteps of our President, the capture of war criminals in Bosnia and countless other tidbits that literally pummel us throughout our day.  It is no wonder that some would think that our world is falling apart.  The more ‘seasoned’ generation would ponder…  “We don’t remember so much misery in the world when we were growing up.”  And as youngsters we listened to our parents and grandparents tell the tales of their lives and how simple and friendly life was back then, and we began to wonder ourselves what has happened to this world of ours.  And indeed, what has happened?

Information.  Information has changed, shaped and expanded our view of the world around us to such an extent that we have become bombarded with instant access to the horrific atrocities from around the world that we would otherwise be blissfully ignorant of. 

And my point is this: It seems to us that our world is so much worse off than it was before simply because we are more aware of what is going on in our world now than we have ever been in the past.  And the reason this seems to be so, is that we were ever so limited in our understanding of what was happening in the world back then.  We had no live daily TV broadcasts from the trenches of Europe during either of the World Wars, and the war remained a far-off thing to those at home.  But with the advent of new technology and satellite systems, we were subjected to daily coverage of the war (and let’s not start any of this PC ‘conflict’ nonsense) in Vietnam (for example).  Step by bloody step we were forced to watch our neighbors, brothers and fathers die in unspeakable ways before our eyes.  And we were shocked, horrified, and repulsed.  Riots resulted, and protests and marches and rallies and such.   This only illustrates how the advent of instant information has changed our perspective, and how the world that went before was no better off than the world we live in now.  We just had no knowledge of just how wicked man could be until the information age showed us the cruel truth of how brutal mankind truly is.  And in those places, such as the United States, where brutality no longer reigns, (And lest we allow ourselves to forget, it was our own beloved forefathers who slaughtered whole nations of this continent’s native inhabitants to gain the land we live on today.)  It is because those who came before us bled, sacrificed and died to rise up from that brutality and breathe new life into their little corner of the world. 

Despite the wars and struggles we face as a world today, this world has become a better place than it was before.  And that same Information age, which seems to shed such a pale light upon our condition, has also made us more aware of our world’s situation.  And because of it, we have been given the unique opportunity as a nation of strength and influence, to help others around the world make the same changes in their own little corner of the world.

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