We Have to Do the Hard Things

It may often seem like all hell is breaking loose and people are just the worst, but actually we've never had it better and we're by and large on our best behavior as humans as we've ever been.  So says the data, on things like poverty and child mortality and infectious diseases.  And so say books like Steven Pinker's fantastic "Our Better Angels," which shows how much less violent and how much more humane we have become over time. 

But this recent piece in the Guardian and this commentary about the piece at kottke.org argue, just because we've moved in the right direction so dramatically doesn't mean we'll continue to do so without effort, and in fact if we're not careful we can grind to a halt or even move backward.  We tend to think of history as a fait accompli, but of course it is anything but.  Things had to happen for history to happen.  For us to make progress in medicine and sanitation and health care delivery, we had to do those things, and it wasn't always easy and in fact was often hard.  For us to become more civilized and less brutish, we had to do those things, and it wasn't always easy and in fact was often hard.

And we have to continue to do those things into the future, if we want all of this progress to continue.  We have to invest and innovate and try and fail and succeed and expand.  We have to rein in our darker impulses and say no to closing our minds and say yes to loving one another.  We can't ride the momentum of past successes and assume that future successes are assured.  We have to do these things, individually and collectively.  It won't always be easy and in fact it will often be hard.  But we have to do them.  We have to do the hard things.

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