A quick note before the 3-day holiday weekend consumes all:
I was thumbing through the Oscar edition of a recent glossy mag when I came across an article by James Pogue titled “West of Eden.” It’s a discussion of folks on the fringe right, including preppers, dystopian billionaires, and a bunch of off-the-grid, back to-the-land, radicals. I can sum up the entire vibe with a single quote: “If you’re not willing to shoot federal agents, then you’re not serious about it.”
This is nothing new.
I can recall having similar conversations with very wealthy people during (and even after) the great financial crisis. Some bought land in remote locations, others dove into cryptos, still others fortified their homes with gates and cameras and became proficient using their cache of guns.
That was 15 years ago; I was not around for similar conversations in the stagflationary ‘70s or the depression-era 30s, but history is replete with examples from those periods.
This raises the fascinating question: Are things appreciably worse than they once were? Or, are we drowning in social media, a sea of clickbait emphasizing the outrageous and terrible over the fascinating and upbeat?
I suspect it’s the latter.
By most objective measures, the world continues to improve. My colleague Ben Carlson re-upped that view today in 50 Ways the World is Getting Better.
I can give you a laundry list of all of the ways that we have regressed: I want to avoid current news of indictments and partisan politics,1 and instead suggest one valid issue that is of concern: The loss of community in modern America.
Noah Smith discusses this (optimistically) here: Vertical communities. I am a touch more concerned than Noah about the genuine changes occurring in society regarding the sense of community we all experience. My frame of reference is the recent pandemic when we all seemed to have become a lot nicer. Now, that sense of mutual obligation seems to be fading.
But that is a minor digression. The bigger question is whether all of these negative stories accurately depict the overall state of society? Or, are we immersed in a sea of media that focuses on the negative, making it appear things are getting worse when they are not?
I believe it is the latter…
50 Ways the World is Getting Better (Ben Carlson, April 7, 2023)
Vertical communities (Noah Smith, Jan 27 2023)
How News Looks When Its Old (October 29, 2021)
More Signal, Less Noise (October 25, 2013)
1. One of the major political parties in the United States no longer believes in facts, or science or arguably, Democracy…