Friday, February 3, 2012

First World Fallacies

One of the things I am routinely shocked by is how readily people in places like America criticize progress. I don’t have to look long or hard to find people who are more than happy to belittle “Western medicine.” There are entire books and magazines dedicated to bashing modern agriculture and food preparation. People are constantly complaining about how creativity is dead. And obviously the government is a bunch of know-nothing fools or cunning cutthroats (depending on the speaker’s mood, of course).


I’m not trying to say we live in a perfect world, and I hope things only get better from here, but I have to wonder: can some people ever be happy?

The one that pisses me off the most is the blatantly ignorant attacks on “Western medicine.” It’s always those two words together, and it has me wondering if people to the north, south or east of us are somehow more medically advanced than we are… but they aren’t. Countries with the highest life expectancy and quality of life all partake heavily in “Western medicine,” aka “real medicine.” Hell, the most successful medical systems in the world all give “Western medicine” to all their citizens, and the US will probably always lag behind them until we do the same.

We also produce more food with modern methods than we ever could through traditional means. We are able to feed the world… or we would, if we distributed it properly. The biggest problem here is that countries like the US consume an inordinate amount of food. The problem isn’t in how our food is grown and prepared, it’s that we have so much that we think nothing of stuffing our faces to the point where we can’t even fit into airline seats anymore. We don’t have a quality problem, we have a quantity problem, and farmers and food manufacturers are not force feeding us. The problem is the consumer, not the producer.

And I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that “art is dead.” Fuck you. How far up your ass does your head have to be to not see the sheer volume of high-quality entertainment and artistic expression being produced today? I would venture to say there is more good art produced in any given year than was produced by all of humanity from the dawn of man until the 1400s. What’s more, now that we have the internet, there isn’t a single damn reason for you to not know about it. If you aren’t aware of some of the amazing stuff being written, sung, drawn, painted, acted and filmed, don’t blame Hollywood, blame your lazy ass. It’s at your fingertips, and you would rather bitch about the fall of Western civilization than look for all the amazing stuff that is out there.

But what really confuses me, more than all the others combined, is how hopelessly cynical most people are about the very idea of government. It’s as though these people never read history. There are people who are so convinced government is bound to fail that they would like to see it done away with altogether, as if the lack of a government could solve anything. This is tantamount to reading one article about how doctors over-prescribe Ritalin and deciding to never see a doctor again. They’re the kind of people who, upon finding out they have an unhealthy diet, might starve themselves to death. If they didn’t like what was on one channel, they would throw away their TV altogether.

It’s as if working well isn’t enough; it must be perfect, or they hate it. These are awfully high standards for people who are basically little more than idiots themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why one would be cynical, just as I understand all of the complaints about the above. The problem is, the only reason to hold any of these pessimistic views is because you – yes you – are ignorant. It’s not someone else’s fault you don’t know the facts, you can’t blame other people for your stupid views. If you harbor a negative outlook on these things, it’s because you have chosen to ignore anything positive and have instead decided to obsess on every possible negative thing you can find.

I’m not an optimist. I think that if you go through life always looking up, you’re bound to trip over something. However, I’m also not a pessimist. If you go through life always looking down, you’re going to smack your head into all sorts of things. If you take the time to look around in more than one direction, you might be surprised at what you see.

Things are surprisingly good, and I’m almost glad in a way that they aren’t perfect. It leaves something for us to do. The problem is… I don’t see much doing, but I hear a whole lot of nay-saying from people too afraid to try anything that is new to them. I think most people have no clue how good we have it, because they’re too focused on what they don’t have or how things have changed from what they were comfortable with. It’s okay to yearn for more, really it is, but if all you’re going to do is whine and bad mouth anything new, you have no one to blame for your shitty outlook than yourself.

It’s not only okay to point out the problems we face, it’s important that we acknowledge where we can improve, but there comes a point where constructive criticism crosses into useless defeatism.

Nothing ever got accomplished by those who gave up or refused to try.


  1. I get into the "world is going to hell" conversation every once in a while with people. What I'm suprised at, I say, is that the world is doing remarkably well, historically speaking.

    1. You sort of reminded me: I also cannot believe people who say they wished they lived in some time period before the 20th century. I can almost understanding wishing you were alive in the 1950's or later, but much before that and I think the person is romanticizing it. Even then, it's generally only white men who would want to live in the past (I am happy here in the present, with effective cures for most forms of cancer... that definitely outweighs being able to call my secretary "toots").

      But yeah, we're doing well, historically. I think we haven't even peaked yet. You almost have to wonder: if things are so bad now, how bad were they when half your kids died before the age of ten (like in colonial times)?


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