The twentieth century was one of the most impressive hundred years in the long history of mankind. Since our primate ancestors descended from the trees and learned to walk erect, homo sapiens have striven to incrementaly improve their lot and make the world around them a safer and more dependable place in which to live and prosper.
During the twentieth century, this effort seemed to truly kick into high gear. The level of progress in almost all aspects of life was truly awe inspiring. Science gave us virtually unlimited sources of energy, enabled us to travel to the moon and beyond, cured diseases that had decimated global populations in the past, connected the world like never before through a universal internet, and made it possible, at least theoretically, to eliminate famine and hunger through an unprecedented increase in agricultural productivity.
In the social sphere, equality, racial diversity and human rights became entrenched in the world’s consciousness and increasingly in more and more nations’ constitutions and legal systems. The world’s population became significantly more educated and literate, giving individuals more scope and opportunity to realize their full potential as creative beings.
Politically, long established and deeply entrenched repressive political systems were relegated to the dustbin of history. Slavery, monarchies and empires disappeared as democracy and political freedom spread throughout the globe. The aftermath of two very destructive world wars gave rise to the United Nations and renewed hopes that future conflicts would be fought with words and not lethal weapons. The evil Soviet empire collapsed proving conclusively that communism was simply not a workable political or economic option for anybody.
Economically, an ever-greater number of the world’s population was able to escape the clutches of institutionalized poverty and enter the ranks of the middle class. Workers’ rights became more entrenched, eliminating child labour, ensuring safer working conditions, humane working hours and livable wages. More and more of the world was evolving toward a hybrid system of economy and governance that embodied the more positive aspects of both capitalism and socialism. Despite some of the conflicts and turmoil that we lived through during the latter half of the twentieth century, it was a time of justified hope and optimism for the future.
Regrettably, the first couple of decades of the 21st century have seen an alarming return of reactionary movements on many international fronts. In the U.S. in particular, a corrosive, yet powerful fundamentalist fringe has taken control of the Republican party and is plunging the U.S. into to a dangerously polarized political miasma that is reinforcing a lethal American addiction to guns, a return to Jim Crow racist politicas, an erosion of basic human freedoms, and an unconscionable reversal of women’s reproductive rights.
On the other side of the world, a post-Soviet Russia has reverted to its feudal roots and is being ruled by an authoritarian despot in Vladimir Putin, who harbours psychotic delusions about recreating a revived Russian empire that is seriously destabilizing world peace.
Perhaps even more serious, despite overwhelming scientific evidence on global warming and climate change, the world’s countries can’t seem to shake their addiction to petroleum products and are unwilling to adopt the drastic measures that are necessary to prevent the almost certain ecological catastrophe that might prevent civilization from surviving into the next century.
It is obvious that in many ways, civilization as we know it has taken a turn in the wrong direction. We should not however let these developments lead us into complacency or despair. As history has often shown, it takes a crisis to force people into taking the painful and difficult actions necessary to right a ship that is in danger of being sunk. It has taken a brutal invasion of Ukraine to make Europe, NATO and the free world realize that the age of imperialism is not quite over, and that the current system of alliances and the United Nations in particular, are totally inadequate in dealing with psycho-tyrants like Putin. It has taken mass school shootings, the election of a corrupt clown such as Trump to the presidency of the U.S., and the overthrow of the Roe vs Wade protection of reproductive rights, to force Americans to realize that their constitutional and electoral systems are grossly out of date and in danger of destroying the democratic basis of the most powerful country in the world.
These recent developments are a call to action. We cannot sit on our derrieres and hope things get better. It is time to get involved, challenge the reactionary forces that are trying to take us back to a darker time in history, and make it known that we are “mad as hell, and we won’t take it anymore.” It is time to wake up my friends, and do what we can to ensure that we have a future worth living in.