What the hell is wrong with society today?
It must be the kids who think they're so smart
Or all the noisemakers whose songs are called "art"
It must be the drivers who clog all the roads
And writers who fill the newspapers with loads
Of liberal viewpoints and government crime
And too-thin celebrities wasting our time
Soliciting funds for the Cause of the Day
Alongside the cigarette ads which help pay
For companies poisoning civilized air
And cutting down trees till there isn't a square
That hasn't been razed for a new shopping mall
Or houses to add to the suburban sprawl
Or rotten old slums for the poor and the trash
Who rob us in alleys and take all our cash
So that we have no money left which can pay
Our taxes which grow higher day after day
To feed the fat checkbook of some politician
While corporate lobbyists finish their mission
To make the world safer for power and greed
And things that we want, not the things that we need
And the small businessman just gets smaller and smaller
While dismal skyscrapers get taller and taller
And the big businessman's happily living large --
Yep, things would be different if I were in charge!

Okay, there is a lot wrong with society today, but what are we comparing it to?
(Note that throughout the comments below, I am referring to our society, the society that has the 'net, and can access E2)

From prehistoric times to the 15th century, average human life expectancy was in the 20's, by the 1600's the mid 30's -- at the beginning of the 19th Century it was 37. So far in the 20th century, life expectancy has increased by 24 years in Sweden and by 27 years in England and Wales, typical of Western European countries. In Italy life expectancy has risen by 32 years, from 43 to 75, and in Czechoslovakia it has increased from 40 to 71. U.S. life expectancy reflects the rise in Europe, though it is less well documented.

Historically, those with money were, in general, leisured, while the "lower orders" worked like slaves for little return to keep the wealthy happy. Nowadays you are far more likely to find that top executives and managers are working long hours, while general staff either stick with an eight hour day, or demand higher salaries. A much fairer situation, surely?

Poverty today is stark and unpleasant, but compared with that encountered even 100 years ago it is luxurious. Public health and education, however many faults it has, exists. Literacy levels are at a record high, children don't work full days in factories, and many debilitating diseases have been totally erradicated.

Morality though, that has taken a tumble, right? Wrong. Can you imagine now a priest with children becoming Pope? Prostitution was a prestigious career in the Middle Ages, and child prostitution was far more common, even up to Victorian times, than it is today.

While teenage pregnancy and illegitimate birth are serious problems today, few realize that in the sixteenth century most marriages occurred as a result of the obvious pregnancy of the bride. The paternity of the child was often doubtful and the likely fathers might draw straws to see who was to be the groom. And, of course, girls as young as twelve married. As divorce was almost impossible to obtain, adultery was rife, and village herb-women sold preparations to bring on abortion as often as they did love charms -- abortion isn't new, all that is new is safe, legal abortion. Perhaps some people may think that death is a just punishment for a woman who tries to kill her child; but then again, many women died in childbirth too.

Child Abuse is a huge topic now of course -- but in the "spare the rod and spoil the child" times of the middle ages a parent would not even have been prosecuted for killing their child, if death resulted in the course of 'normal discipline'.

And, of course, voicing an opinion contrary to prevailing thought was often called heresy or sedition or treason and could be punishable by death.

Things are better now because people have fought for, died for, and won rights. These rights are enshrined in law and go way beyond anything our ancestors would have even imagined.

I'm not minimising today's problems, they need to be dealt with, but they do need to be seen in a truthful context, and not with nostalgia -- let's deal with them in a forward-looking way.

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