Saturday, 8 September 2012

Paradoxical Days of Miracle and Wonder

Here's a segment of Philip José Farmer's story "Riders of the Purple Wage" that I have been unable to forget.
"Another Renaissance has come, a fruition of the arts comparable to that of Pericles’ Athens and the city-states of Michelangelo’s Italy or Shakespeare’s England. Paradox. More illiterates than ever before in the world’s history. But also more literates. Speakers of classical Latin outnumber those of Caesar’s day. The world of aesthetics bears a fabulous fruit. And, of course, fruits."
It is prophetic. On the other hand, Paul Simon put the thought a bit more succinctly in his song "The Boy in the Bubble":
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry
Don't cry
Update (19 July 2013). Joe Schlesinger on the CBC web site has come up with an essay on the same subject as my quotations above: "You do know, right, the world is getting better." 

Two TED talks by Hans Rosling contribute to this train of thought. One is on the economic rise of non-European and non-North American nations.
The other is on whether the world can afford the current rates of population growth.
We cannot become complacent, but in my own life I've seen the peaceful end of the world's second power, the USSR, the democratization of the nations that were under its control, the reunification of Germany, the entry of China into the world political and economic community and, most recently, the creation of the first democratic states in the Arab world. Those are achievements that can stand next to quite a pile of bad news (such as a global depression caused by a thoroughly corrupt banking system) without being overshadowed by it.

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