People can get used to just about anything: high altitudes, marathon distance runs, living in terrifying surroundings, constant vulgarity in the mass media, pain from chronic illness ... the list is infinitely extensible. When something is common enough and continues long enough, it becomes invisible, like air. The servants are part of the furniture. Tens of thousands of premature deaths from (fill in the blank) are forgotten; the news covers a plane crash one week, a storm the next, then an earthquake, and so forth. We avert our eyes from slaughterhouses, landfills, and prisons (unless they're in our own neighborhood — in which case we strive to move them somewhere else!). Schools turn gradually into babysitting facilities where learning is secondary to crowd control. We get used to it.

So it helps to look back every so often — back to times when things were other than they are now. Changes that happen on generational timescales then become apparent. Some are undeniably for the better — health, wealth, individual liberty, technological progress — but others are shocking when we make the comparison with bygone days. Seeing those changes in sharp focus is the first step to understanding where we are, judging our situation, and then choosing the right path for action.

Sunday, October 17, 1999 at 11:08:51 (EDT) = 1999-10-17


(correlates: OnAesthetics, DangerousPhrase, CornFloss, ...)