Now Just a Danged Minute

We know some stuff about how big families work, and one of the things we know–say about people who are number six out of seven children–is that these children will often make their contribution to the family’s functionality by changing roles. When the family needs a cheerleader, out come the pom-poms. When the family needs a voice of reason, logic is the order of the day. When the family is embarking on an ill-planned adventure, the younger siblings will often be the ones muttering, “Mapquest says this isn’t a shortcut…”

The benefit of having these folks around–cheerleaders one day, oracles of doom the next–is that the group as a whole gets a wider perspective on any situation. The “after-thought” position takes a broad view, and tries to make sure all the data gets consideration. It only FEELS like these people are contrarians, or to use the pathological term, “oppositional-defiant.” (I am not!)

Violent crime reported in the US 1990-2015

So… at this time, which many of us find trying, I’d like to offer some reason for optimism: The world really is getting better in a lot of significant ways. Let’s start with extreme poverty, which is generally defined as living on less than two dollars day. The 189 UN member nations set a goal in 2000 of cutting our extreme poverty figures in half in fifteen years. We met that goal five years early, despite that stinky old recession.

And what about population growth? It has already slowed down, and is projected to level off around 2070 and then start dropping. As people live longer and education becomes more readily available, women have smaller families. In some countries (the US and UK) this took many decades. South Korea pulled it off in eighteen years. Iran accomplished population stability in ten years. Got grandkids? Spoil ’em rotten, because there will never again be as many children on the planet as we have now.

In other areas, from education, to child mortality, to health, to freedom… we’ve made enormous strides. With fewer children to educate, by the end of this century, we should achieve just about 100 literacy. Consider that in 1900 we were at 26 percent literacy, and now we’re up to 85 percent. Take a bow, us.  More people live in democratic societies than ever before, and what we’ve done with child mortality is miraculous. In 1900, 36 percent of all children died before age five (down from 43 percent in 1800). Now? We’re at 4.3 percent worldwide and dropping.

So, yes, of course. We face big challenges, and there’s plenty of reason to be worried and tired and fed up. But there are more of us than ever before to tackle the big problems, we’re better educated and in better health than we’ve ever been before, we’re safer than we’ve been before, more of us have political freedom than ever before, and we’ve achieved miracles when we work together. My money’s on us, as are my love, my hope, and my best efforts.

Your turn: What do you see–big picture, small picture, anywhere–that gives you hope and encouragement? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of His Lordship’s True Lady, because TRUE LOVE ALWAYS WINS. (Does too.)

 

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28 comments on “Now Just a Danged Minute

  1. 1

    I WAS born 3 years after the second world war ,my father worked on the land after coming out of the army my mother also worked on the fields especially harvest time.The work was hard and the pay poor but the job came with a cottage.When I used to ask mum if we were poor she would reply how can we be poor we have food in our tummies a roof over our heads and clothes on our back and warmth in the winter.England took many years to recover from the war but we did thanks to the determination of our parents generation.The UK is now going through a time of questioning our standard of living,a gap is appearing social and welfare becoming dirty words and the more well off ignoring what is happening around them.The country though has finally woken up and recent events have lead many people to question equality and unfairness.Cutbacks and shortcuts have been dangerously severe and in some cases to prolonged when it could have been eased.So yes I have faith in the human race and yes I and many of my friends Will be continuing to keep our eyes on the ball after all we are a democratic country but it still needs maintenance and on going care.New generations will pick up the baton.Thanks once again Grace for reminding us all of our obligations we are all part of a whole.

    • 1.1

      Somebody asked Benjamin Franklin whether the Continental Congress had decided on a monarchy or a republic, and his answer was, “A republic–if you can keep it.” I think every generation gets tested regarding whether they are earning the hard, wise choices previous generations made for them. If we can reduce dire poverty by half in ten years–for the whole globe–we’re capable of miracles.

  2. 2
    Hilary says:

    Love your thoughts on this topic, particularly because I have recently all but given up on humanity. I love your perspective and hope. I definitely needed that today.

    One of the things that has given me hope over the last year has been watching my daughter develop a beautiful, caring relationship with her best friend. Two 4-year-old girls who love each other without reserve is life-affirming. These girls can fuss and argue, all while holding hands and remaining utterly loyal to each other. They never part ways without a hug and a kiss. They always keep the other girl foremost in their mind and never let an opportunity to praise the other pass them by. Total and complete love and acceptance combined with honesty. Watching their friendship grow has given me hope for the future.

    • 2.1

      I hope you keep a journal of this relationship as it continues to evolve–or a scrapbook. Quotes, photos, memories. They will both thank you. I’m not a scrap-booker, but for one of my daughter’s birthdays (thirteenth? fourteenth?) I put together a scrapbook of her riding experiences, and that has always been one of my best gifts to her. She was just being a kid on a succession of ponies, but from my perspective, she was making dreams come true.

  3. 3
    Beth says:

    My local utility monopoly realized Florida was probably a good place to invest in solar power before the entire population plastered their roofs with the new Tesla solar tiles. So they’ve signed a 25 year contract with a company specializing in solar farms.

    On the personal front, I’m excited about starting a business at an age people used to retire, assuming they’d live so long. With proper care, nutrition, and good genetics on my side, there’s every chance I’ll have another half century of productivity ahead of me.

    • 3.1

      And solar is growing like a weed, so good on the Sunshine State. My grandma opened up her first retail establishment at age sixty, and supported herself with it comfortably for the next twenty years. I expect your business will flourish just as well!

  4. 4

    The biggest change I see in just this past year is that apathy is down, and caring is up.

    • 4.1

      That’s a good way to put it. People who have never engaged in a public dialogue about anything are now on the horn to elected representatives, marching, writing, and being heard. We have work to do!

  5. 5
    Amy says:

    Travel is safer, easier, and more affordable today than it has ever been. I can trot off to Europe or Japan for a week, see and do almost everything on my list, and have a wonderful time. Amazing.

    AND book people are interested in diversity and #myownvoice. You can read good books in any genre that reflect your life experience. That’s also amazing especially considering that in my own lifetime some of the diversity we celebrate was considered a criminal act.

    • 5.1

      One of my favorite Twain quotes:
      “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
      Loving vs. VA was one of the most appalling, interesting, cases we studied in law school, and I recall being dumbstruck that the case was a mere fifteen years old at the time. Loving was also one of the strongest precedents used in the cases that struck down bans against same sex marriage.

  6. 6
    Teenie Marie says:

    I think we’ve are closing in on causes for Big Deal diseases. As we understand the hows and whys, we realize the whats we need to do to prevent or stop those things. Lifestyle changes are simple things if we know it will prevent us from succumbing to the same fate as Aunt Sally!

    Those children who died in 1900 often died because of lack of good hygiene (washing your hands seems a simple thing but it makes such a difference…even now!) or lack of clean water and childhood illnesses we’ve now got cures for. As we understood the world and how disease is passed, childhood mortality dropped and that’s great.

    P.S. I’ve been reading His Lordship Hessian’s Tale (with Lily and…well, don’t want to spoil it!)and something struck me: you’ve done novellas about Their Graces, The Morelands, as pre-quels. For some reason the two Windham brothers who died (I think their names are Bart and Victor)have my curiosity peaked and I wonder what and who they were in relation to the family. I know Victor had a daughter (Rose?) who is in the fray. Anyway, just wondering if you’ve ever thought about doing a pre-quel with those brothers…..don’t know why it suddenly occurred to me when Valentine made a *guest* appearance as a musician at a musical soiree in “His Lordship’s True Lady” but it did. 🙂

    • 6.1

      Those Windham guys… they are forever gate-crashing other people’s books!
      You are right that hygiene played a role, as the did the absence of effective antibiotics (oral penicillin dates from the late 1950s). As did pre-natal care (even maternity vitamins make a difference), as did women being able to control how many babies they had and when they had them.

      Lots of steps forward, if we take the long view.

  7. 7
    Mary T says:

    You are right. It is so much easier to see what is wrong than it is to see what is right with the world. In the big picture, the world is so much better today than it was 100 years ago. I have enough faith to believe that (in spite of our problems) the world will be an even better place 100 years from now.

    No need to put me in the drawing. I already have this book on my kindle and am looking forward to starting it later today.

    • 7.1

      I think the world will be even more amazing in 100 years than it is now. In the US, we’re moving closer year by year to at true melting pot, where no one ethnicity, religion, or gender dominates our dialogue or our demographics. That challenge then will be to preserve what’s wonderful about diversity, while letting go of what hasn’t helped us.

  8. 8
    Diane Sallans says:

    I hope we’re at a beginning of a big turn-around in social activism (or at least attention). In the US we’ve had our shocks after the last election, Great Britain seemed amazed at the results of the Brexit vote, and France seems to have made a statement with their last election.

    I’m encouraged by the number of women getting into the political arena and are succeeding.

    On the scientific front there is a lot going on that may make healthcare better and energy & use production cleaner.

    I try to maintain an overall optimistic attitude and hope for the best..

    • 8.1

      You are right about energy and medicine. The largest factory in the world is Tesla’s Gigafactory near Lake Tahoe, and it’s run entirely on solar power (and making solar batteries with that power). I’ve seen major advances recently in our understanding and treatment of Type One diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s. Amazon has experimenting with drone delivery that could mean nobody has to get in the car to “grab a carton of milk” and I know a lot of people who haven’t been inside a bank lobby yet this year, because they can manage it all online.

      What a woild.

  9. 9
    Glenda says:

    It is easy to focus on the trees rather than the forest, but we do have to fix the little things to have a long term impact on the larger things.

    I love your list of areas of improvement, Grace. One thing you left off is that despite all evidence of climate change – pollution has decreased in many countries after a massive increase during the industrial revolution. Maybe I’m idealistic but I do believe the average Josephine can make a difference by refusing to patronize the companies who have shown disregard for the environment.

    If you pay attention to politics, we do appear to be more divided than anytime in recent history. However, I honestly believe that the majority of us are not on the extreme ends of the spectrum on most issues. The most vocal (and prolific online) individuals seem to occupy those opposing seats on the teter-totter of public and political opinion. Most of the people I know don’t always agreed with one end or the other and they are tired of the lack of comprimise. Maybe if we all vote for people willing to work together, we will see some improvements.

    • 9.1

      And do you know who those “work together” people are?
      Women. Kamala Harris told a group of constituents earlier this year, that if we want to see Congress get back to solving problems, then support female candidates regardless of party. The women’s caucus has created what they call “islands of civility,” which include committees, social gatherings, monthly dinners, and other quasi-official spaces, where you can disagree, but not if you have to be disagreeable.
      The data backs up the idea that women legislators really, truly are more effective than men. At the national level, women are more likely to get their bills into law, at the state level, the more woman in a state legislature, the more productive that legislature will be–even if, (like Colorado), it’s a highly partisan state.
      So yes–vote for the people who have strong leadership and creative problem-solving skills.

      http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/women-legislators-more-effective/2015/02/20/id/625938/

  10. 10
    Mary says:

    My daughters and their friends give me hope for the future!

  11. 11
    Sarah says:

    My young daughter has a friend who is transgender. Despite not having support at home or in his religious community, he knows who he is and knows he is not alone. It took me one email to a wonderful organization to be able to pass on to him pages of local resources along with our family’s support and extra bedroom if needed. It won’t be an easy adolescence for him by any definition, but I am heartened that this young man will come of age in a world that may be a little more ready to accept him than in the past. Our local university has safe housing options and counseling and medical services and an active LGBTQ community. I find in that some hope that compassion and love will win.

  12. 12
    Anne Egger says:

    Things are looking up on a personal level. Work is better. I might be able to take a class in the Fall. Got to hang out with a girlfriend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while.

  13. 13
    Marianne says:

    I was away for two days and came home to find the roses blooming!

    I find hope in the evidence of the changing seasons, or perhaps it just makes me happy.

    • 13.1

      I do too. I’m reassured by the yearly progression that at a macro-level, things are still working. I’m also cheered to know the danged house flies have a hard frost waiting for them, just a few months from now! (I’m awful–but it’s 90+ degrees, muggy as heck, and I HATE flies.)

  14. 14
    Pam says:

    I forwarded your post to some friends of mine. It’s good to be reminded of the improvements that have been made in times when the news of the day is not so good. Thank you.

  15. 15

    I recently started a list of blogs I wanted to write. Some of them, along the lines you’ve mentioned in this piece, top my list. I’ve been beset by a number of health and other distressing issues over the past year plus and find myself slipping into negative thoughts more often. Recently, I’ve considered unleashing some of that toxicity into a dystopian novel. But I write time-travel historical romance. And I love writing romance (though I’m new to pursuing this passion.) I’m wondering how I’ll combine the two concepts. That’s only a half serious thought.
    But I digress, I loved this post and applaud your tenacity to find and remind us about things to celebrate in these times where news and our leaders seem bent on following negative paths. Thank you, Grace I love your books!