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Think About It: Isn't The World Actually Improving?

Updated on November 27, 2016
Child Protective Services in the Good Old Days
Child Protective Services in the Good Old Days | Source

Maybe There is no Real Cause for Cynicism!

Shocking statement, isn’t it? With all the problems we have in the US today – high unemployment, violence in schools, global warming – how can anyone think the world is improving?

Back in 1973, I saw a movie called Soylent Green. It takes place in the year 2022, in New York City, which has grown to a population of 40 million. Nature has disappeared, the streets are crowded with homeless people, and food as we know it is almost nonexistent. What exists is extremely expensive; a jar of strawberry jam costs $150. People survive on nutrient-rich wafers, Soylent Red, Soylent Yellow, and the most important of all, Soylent Green, supposedly made of plankton, which is extremely rare. Being only 12 at the time, the movie freaked me out; was this the future I would be forced to live in?

That fateful date is now only a decade away. New York City's population is currently around 8 million, and I doubt it will be five times bigger in 10 years. We still have our national parks, and food is still food - in fact, in the industrialized world, it's relatively cheap. That's why poor people in the US can afford to be fat.

A year after Soylent Green came out, a book was published called, The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible! It tells of life in the US between the years of 1865 - 1920. That book definitely calmed my fears and put things into perspective! You think we have it bad now? Let’s compare today with the good old days:

Soylent Green
Soylent Green

The year 2022, according to 1973. Do you REALLY think we'll be like this in a few years?

In the Good Old Days, air pollution from traffic rose from what was deposited on the ground.
In the Good Old Days, air pollution from traffic rose from what was deposited on the ground. | Source

Pollution / Global Warming

There was no Environmental Protection Agency in the good old days. City streets were paved with horse manure, and factories and bone mills spewed out noxious smoke with impunity. Even western towns were dirty; animal wastes seeped into groundwater, polluting wells. Cholera, a disease caused by filthy living conditions, was a common epidemic. Sure, we have chemical waste sites today, but we are not surrounded by them, as people were with filth 100 years ago. As for global warming, we’ve solved far worse problems; we can solve this one, too.

The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible!
The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible!

This book describes the "Good Old Days" in graphic detail! All you wanted to know, but were afraid to think about!

"...and we didn't want to take our vitamins - whatever that is."
"...and we didn't want to take our vitamins - whatever that is." | Source

Life Knowledge

Speaking of solving problems, vaccines were not widely known about, and causes / cures for diseases were virtually unknown. People didn’t even know what caused yellow fever and malaria. In fact, the name “malaria” means “bad air”, because people thought it came from breathing swampy air at night. They didn’t realize both diseases come from mosquitoes. Such diseases are rare in the US today, because of our knowledge. As for other diseases, like tetnus, diphtheria, and polio, those are virtually eradicated, because we have vaccines for them. We also avoid lots of other problems, through basic hygiene, like washing our hands before meals, brushing our teeth, and bathing regularly.

"Uh - what's OSHA?"
"Uh - what's OSHA?" | Source

Unemployment / On The Job Abuse

There was no such thing as unemployment, welfare, and worker’s compensation benefits back then. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid – period. Also, there were no OSHA laws; the saying went, “If you accept a job, you accept its risk”. On page 71 is a photograph of a railroad worker with two short wooden stumps for legs who was forced to return to work, because there was no workman’s compensation – and even then, he was lucky to get a job. Sweatshop conditions existed, and young children were hired at rip-off wages, working obscene hours. People had no choice; either they accepted these conditions, or they literally starved.

Race relations in the Good Old Days
Race relations in the Good Old Days | Source


Page 106 tells of the lynching epidemic of African Americans. There was no NAACP or ACLU in those days. Horrible as this was, the book says nothing about what was happening to Native Americans during this time (that is detailed in the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee). Also, though it talks extensively about how European emigrants were exploited, it doesn’t specifically focus on Jews who escaped pogroms and endured incredible hardships to come to the US – only to be exploited by companies owned by their own brethren. Racism was not only commonly practiced, it was accepted.

So many things we now take for granted were barely conceived fantasies back then. Life today isn’t so bad after all, is it?

Do you believe the world is getting better or worse? Please vote, and explain your answer in the comments section below.

See results

© 2012 Yoleen Lucas


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    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thanks, MDaviatatTIERS, for your comment. Yes, the world is still far from perfect, but it is improving. In the past, hunger was caused by lack of food; today, it is caused by corrupt politics and lack of distribution. Thanks to technology, there is more than enough food to feed everyone; yet, farmers destroy crops to keep prices high enough to make some semblance of a profit. When charities send food to starving countries, their corrupt governments keep the people from getting the supplies, and some workers are even attacked. So the real need here is not food, but getting rid of corruption.

      Nowadays, when an injustice happens in some far-flung corner of the globe, people hear about it almost immediately. It used to take months - perhaps years - for the news to get out; in some instances, it never did, and archeologists would stumble across mass graves and could only speculate what occurred and when. Thanks to technology, we can know and act on injustices.

      Even in my relatively short lifetime of little over half a century, I've noticed improvements in the world. I used to have to go to the library to read encyclopedias to do research; now, I have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips on the internet. Also, it's amazing how easy it is to write stories and papers using word processors instead of typewriters, or longhand. Nowadays, you can even publish books for free! (through CreateSpace and Kindle).

      Yes, we still have a long way to go, but at the rate we're going, I'm fully confident we'll get there.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Yoleen; you make some good arguments for improvements in various social issues. Unfortunately, much of the world still does not enjoy some of these social reforms. However, all of your points are valid. Perhaps we perceive the injustices and wrongs more acutely, because we are more aware of them, unlike in the days of old. The internet has made what is happening on the other side of the world instantly accessible to all of us.

      Enjoyed reading and voted up. ~Marilyn