OK, here is another open-ended question-
Has the world become a darker and more pessimistic place within the last decade?
When I first started thinking about this topic, the possibility of age influencing my views was an important consideration. However that appears to be a minor reason, as many people younger than me (20s) are just as pessimistic while those older than me (40s) are much less so.
In my opinion, the current atmosphere of pessimism comes from two major sources-
1. Institutions and systems that were supposed to keep things working are decaying or failing the very people they were meant to serve. This includes everything from marriage, legal systems, law enforcement, employers, the medical system, the financial system and society in general.
2. People are communicating with each other about these changes and increasingly aware of what happens beyond their immediate horizons. Part of the reason behind my especially strong pessimism is that I have been using high-speed internet a lot for the last 15 years.
Today a connected person in the USA has a much better and objective view of what is happening to 20-30 somethings in Japan or Spain. While the MSM still bans adverse portrayal of women, information about the true nature of women and society is becoming more commonplace. People no longer see employers, businesses, ‘experts’ and other hitherto respectable entities and people as hallowed. To put it another way-
Ugly, but previously hidden and obfuscated, truths about the system have become common knowledge.
But this is not the first time an information revolution has caused disenchantment with the old system. Consider the impact of books, newspapers and pamphlets on the previous socio-economic order. They too destroyed the entrenched systems of that era by publicizing their abuses and shortcomings.
Publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was the beginning of the end for Catholicism- as far as it power was concerned. Does anybody doubt the influence of Common Sense by Thomas Paine on american public opinion in 1776? Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the second best-selling book of the 19th century. Communism in the 20th century was the result of Marx publishing Das Kapital in the 19th. The FDA was created because of public uproar after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle“.
Today, most people forget that these pamphlets and books achieved their end result by exposing the shortcomings and abuses of the old ways.
Rejection of entrenched norms and behaviors requires people to first stop believing in the old ways. Pessimism towards the old system is, therefore, a necessary precondition for any change.
Complaints about negativity caused by the internet, social media and blogging should be seen as signs of the medium’s efficacy. Have you ever heard people say that TV or radio cause negativity? Could it have something to do with TV and radio being voices of the establishment? As I have noted before, the internet allows people with interesting but contrarian views and ideas to reach a much wider audience than any previous era in human history.
I, therefore, see the current surge of internet fueled pessimism as the precondition for the next phase of socio-economic change.