Posts tagged ‘peace’

19/02/2013

Living in a golden age.

(This was written at 4am this morning in a fog of insomnia fueled exhaustion. So if it rambles a little please be patient.)

Recently a wonderful and horrifying thought struck me, that we are all in the western world, and almost certainly in other parts of the world also, living in a golden age. Now please do not take me up wrong on this. I’m not saying that we’re living in a perfect age, I fully acknowledge that there are still inequalities, wrongs, discrimination, hatred, and all the other seething pus that humanity always seems to spend a lot of it’s time floating on. But right now life, even in this second Great Depression, is for most people in the West blessed beyond the dreams or imaginations of even our grandparents at our ages.

Information is there for the taking, piped directly in to our homes, and on to our laps by the internet. Why I just spent the past few hours taking a very basic crash course in film-set lighting, something that even in my memory would have before required at minimum a very understanding librarian and a lot of patience.

Medical care is widely available. Now it’s far from perfect, and the right care may not always be readily available for the right person all the time, but for the vast majority of people (in Ireland, and the UK, America…WTF Dudes?!)  it is achievable.

The much maligned welfare state exists in many western countries, and through national conscience helps to keep those in trouble from finding themselves on the street. It’s not for nothing that it is sometimes referred to as a safety net.

Education is up until 3rd level guaranteed. Admittedly it is still up to the student to apply themselves, and make the most of that opportunity, but at least they get the chance.

Those last remaining ill-regarded, and unprotected minorities are finally gradually being cared for by states laws. Roll on the day some of the cutest lesbian and gay couples I know can throw simply fabulous weddings.

Compare a world where the “Emigrants Wake”, a sort of combined going-away party and funeral for the still living which was even in the 80’s a major part of Irish emigration, is not really needed anymore. Now we have Skype, email, telephones (mobile or good old-fashioned landline) in every home. Our loves who are a world away have never been so close. Where as even 30 years ago a family member leaving for the States meant at worst good chance of never seeing them again, and at best rarely hearing from them.

Add to this the fact that the European continent has never been at peace for so long. (Yes, I know there was a war in Serbia and Bosnia not all that long ago, it was terrible, and I can only imagine the pain that people from there still feel to this day. I’m speaking here of the larger European powers not being at each others throats for once, and Europe as a larger whole.)

Nuclear war has shrunk from an ever present worry, to a pale shadow of its past self. And while that particular genie is still out of his bottle, and will forever more haunt our species to some degree, at least for now we only have to worry about the U.S.A., North Korea, and China starting something, at least until the next time Russia decides that Empire is a good idea.

When I think about the world I live in today, and compare it to the world I lived in as a child, or even a teen I find myself filled with wonder, relief, and not a little fear.

Wonder because the world has become wonderful in ways I never imagined. The internet, somewhat affordable air travel (for now at least), the freedom to publicly love whoever I wish regardless of their gender, HIV becoming to some degree a chronic illness rather than a death sentence. Hell even the small things like my entire music collection fitting in one pocket, while 1,200 books fit in the other is something beyond my own imagination as a child, but most days I walk around with a small library music and literature in my pockets.

Relief because the older ways of thinking are gradually, painfully being erased, and I for one don’t worry about the pain, a little pain isn’t a bad thing, it helps you to appreciate the joy that follows. In my own life I’ve seen Europe become a (somewhat fractious) whole, the power of corrupt religions called in to question, and the voices of the abused, tortured and raped finally heard. Of course those with the power doing something about it…well that will take some more time, and possibly a liberal application of cattle-prods. But I have genuinely seen life get better in my own lifetime. I’ve experienced it get better for me personally.

But I’m also experiencing fear at what I’ve called a Golden Age, perhaps I should have said “start of a Golden Age”. You’ve heard it said I’m sure, that to all things there is a time, and the sort of progress we’ve only just really started making is fragile. The wrong person in the wrong position of authority, and it could all come crashing down. The wrong act by the wrong well-meaning madman and we find ourselves at each others throats yet again. The very human tendency to say “that’s good enough”, when we should be saying “That’s a good start”, could lead us in to stagnation, and then in to decay.

Humans are still just a blip in history. Our whole history as a species is microscopic compared to our worlds story. And nanoscopic compared to the universe as a whole. But even in that short blip so many human societies have experienced their Golden Ages, lived without noticing, without seizing the potential that was offered. I truly fear that this chance to achieve greatness might be lost too.

But for this moment, right now, I’m going to concentrate on being happy that I live in a time of wonders. So those memories will sustain me if the time of collapse comes while I still live.

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