I recently received a message from a contemporary who said he looked to the future with “deep angst.” Unfortunately, too many of my generation feel that way.
As we grow older, we tend to grow more negative about the world around us — partly because we no longer play as active a role as we once did. We are on the sidelines, watching the next generations pick up what we left them — the good and the bad.
What the world needs now is not “angst” but confidence. Those of us who lived through the turmoil and progress of the past century — those of us who know at a least a little about history — should be the first to approach this new century with confidence and optimism. Yes, these are frightening times, beginning with a president who thrives on negatives. But are they any more frightening than the Civil War, the 1918 flu epidemic, the worldwide Depression, World War II, polio, the Cold War and countless other problems we have not only overcome but often transformed into positive contributions?
In my generation’s lifetime, worldwide poverty has gone down, worldwide education has greatly improved, life expectancy has almost doubled, wars have been confined to limited areas, technology has changed virtually everything for the better. The list goes on. Certainly, economic well-being has improved since the 1930s. Certainly, human rights have improved since the 1940s. Certainly, public health has improved since the 1950s.
Optimism is not blind, not Pollyanna-ish; it is educated, perceptive, realistic.
Our feckless president and too many of his fellow travelers think only in terms of dollars and cents. They suffer from narrow, limited vision. But those of us who have been around a while know financial measures of success are marginal. We remember when other leaders made judgments based on meaningless criteria in the 1960s and ’70s. The people took over. We forced one president to stop from seeking a second full term, and we forced another president to resign — the only president ever to do so. History shows again and again that we, the people, will not be shackled by slow-witted leaders.
Some see global climate change as the next challenge. It’s a challenge, no doubt, but probably no worse than others we have overcome. After all, the problem was created by human beings. It follows then by definition that human beings can solve the problem. It requires only the will and the resources … plus the necessary human leadership. It won’t come from tea party Republicans, and it won’t come from weed party Democrats. Both are bereft of common-sense political skills. Perhaps the people will once again be forced to take charge. The same is true for other major problems such as homelessness, national debt and gross income inequality.
In any case, there is no need for “deep angst.” The human animal is endowed with remarkable intellectual, organizational and creative skills. Many thought it made little sense to send humans to the moon, but we did it to prove that we could, to lift our spirits and to reject the negative notions of those who fail to grasp lessons from yesterday.
Angst-driven octogenarians will still be around in 2100. By then it will probably be centenarians. If you think climate change is a problem, imagine majorities of celibate grouchy geezers and geezens. Now, there’s a challenge.
Don Gale, a Salt Lake City writer, believes history offers little support to angsters.