Many issues plague us. We even have a new actual plague to go along with the host of other issues we are all well aware of. From the perspective of this American, things certainly feel shitty.
From a failure to make any real progress on global warming to rising wealth inequality to the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, what the fuck is going on?
Despite feeling awful about the current state of the world, it's undeniably the best it's ever been. Using literally any quality of life metric we can find, human life is at its peak.
A few graphs for the nonbelievers.
If you could choose to live anytime in history, you should choose right now. You are likely richer, more literate, under a more representative government, and less likely to die from disease, violence, and famine.
I can't deny it though. I personally feel like things are shitty. Really shitty. And it's right now. I get the impression that many people feel similarly.
Why does it feel so awful?
1. We are infinitely more aware of the problems in the world.
2. You're helpless to solve these new problems you are now aware of.
Let's expand on this a bit.
It should be obvious to you that global communication is more fluid than ever. With the internet above all else, you're now enabled to look closely at all of the shitty parts of the world.
For the longest time, you wouldn't even know about the existence of other large groups of people. Now, it's on liveleak. You can literally watch a video about any problem in the world. And there are so many videos.
Moreover, you cannot solve these problems at all. Probably.
What are you going to do about nuclear proliferation in North Korea? Can you stop the locusts plaguing East Africa and the Middle East? Who's going to save the Uyghurs from an ongoing genocide?
Probably not you.
It's a life work to even make a dent in any of these gigantic disasters. And you probably won't even really try. And even if you tried, you probably wouldn't accomplish much.
The world is a different place now.
3000 years ago, you were probably a farmer. As a farmer now, I can tell you it's not fun to rely on the weather for your income. Unexpected rain during harvest alone can destroy your years' work.
3000 years ago, you experienced what nature threw at you. You could choose how you would react, but that's about it. Nature decided your fate and humans had no say in it.
Now, most of your problems are probably related to other people. The climate is our choice. Disease spread is something we can stop. We choose our government. Most things we experience in life are the active choices of people. Not some unknown force.
Still, we're helpless to solve these problems. There are nearly 8 billion people. You are one.
Maybe problems now feel worse because we can understand them. A great famine in the past felt like a cruel act of God. One we could only hope to endure. Now our problems feel like poor planning. Bad decisions combined with selfish intentions. We feel the problems so much more deeply because we understand them. We understand our problems are unnecessary. And we understand our barriers to solutions are political.
It feels so much pettier. To be limited by each other instead of physics.
My advice is simple. Don't let the world's problems get you down and do what you can. Find ways to bring people closer together instead of searching for the divisions. If history shows us anything, it's that in general, people don't want to create pain for each other. Nature on the other hand, couldn't give a shit.
There are still many problems to solve. You know this I am sure. Just do what you can and don't beat yourself up too much about it. If you think the world is awful now, it's only getting better.
Keep pushing it in the right direction.