I am part of a quasi-bible study group on Facebook; someone in the group asked if the world is getting better or worse. The answer to this question can say a lot about one’s psychology, eschatology, and understanding of history. A question that is not always asked in this kind of musing is, “Relative to when / what ?”
Although technology has made the lives of people easier in the West, and we do not see the same prevalence of war in Europe as existed for much of its history, my intuition is that life in the world is not getting better. Why do I say this?
Firstly, abortion continues apace and is commonly accepted. Whatever flaws our ancestors had, and I concede that many of them frequented back-street abortionists, they did not openly condone abortion. To advocate the traditional Christian stance on abortion would be considered stating the obvious, espousing the popular consensus. Now, to raise the view that there is a human life inside the mother, with rights of his or her own, which take priority over her rights in many respects, is to argue for a minority position, a position that attracts great opprobrium in many circles. A society that holds life less sacred than its ancestors did has not progressed – it has decayed in that respect.
Secondly, general family patterns have changed relative to certain periods in history. The economic down-turn and decline of manufacturing jobs in the West has made it harder for large swathes of the younger generation to move out and start up families of their own. Although there is something of a putative turn-around at the moment in the US, it is not clear whether that pattern will spread to other Western countries and hold there. 10 years on from the 2008 crisis, many people are still conscious about our economic recovery.
Aside from that issue, we have aging populations and many families are having fewer children than the standard pattern of our ancestors. Several factors contribute to this problem. Culturally, the declining influence of traditional Catholicism and the rise of various technologies have allowed people to use contraceptives and abortifacients. Economically, many families are frightened to have more than one or two children because they are worried about the cost of raising them. With both parents working now, society has moved away from a model where the mother stays at home to raise the children and the boys accompany their fathers to work when they are old enough. High rents and mortgages, owing to the financial and housing crises, lead many couples to feel unable to let one of them stay at home, while some voices in the feminist movement tell women that adopting a traditional matronly role is tantamount to slavery.
These pictures are all, of course, simplifications, but they seem to resonate with what many people feel about the West’s emotional, spiritual, and economic malaise. For many people, all I have done here is to state the obvious – but there is fear to do so openly. This last point is important – the extent to which liberty has declined in the West. Certainly in the UK, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say anything that the Centre or the Left will brand as “right wing”.
I invite you to add your own thoughts in the comments below. Personally, I am well aware that my own psychological tendencies towards Western-centrism, depression, and introversion will create a biased perception of the state of the world. I am also aware that I have not dwelt on what is good in this post – and there are a lot of good things. But I think it is valid to ask whether we might be better off trading some of our current “luxuries” for a more stable, disciplined world closer to the pattern of our ancestors.