The end is near; Happy New Year!
Saipan— Evolutionary scientists say we are descendants of people whose brains prioritized bad news. Doomsday scenarios fascinate us. No one will read/watch/listen to the news media if they peddle good news only. The most appealing news are always about bad if not catastrophic events.
In my lifetime, so far, I had been told that the end was near because of: Armageddon as “predicted” by the Bible, thermonuclear war, global cooling, global hunger, Skylab crashing in Manila, the alignment of the planets, Y2K, asteroids, the “end” of winter, the Mayan calendar, overpopulation, resource depletion, mass extinction, 50 million “climate refugees” fleeing their homelands in 2010 because of global warming.
It’s a new year. There will be new dire predictions, of course. We just can’t get enough of them.
In 1898, horse poopoo was a major concern for the Western world’s urban planners so they met in New York City to discuss possible “solutions.”
Says Eric Morris, in his 2007 essay “From Horse Power to Horsepower”:
“The growth in the horse population was outstripping even the rapid rise in the number of human city dwellers. American cities were drowning in horse manure as well as other unpleasant by-products of the era's predominant mode of transportation: urine, flies, congestion, carcasses and traffic accidents. Widespread cruelty to horses was a form of environmental degradation as well.
“The situation seemed dire. In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. One New York prognosticator of the 1890s concluded that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan's third-story windows. A public health and sanitation crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions loomed.
“And no possible solution could be devised. After all, the horse had been the dominant mode of transportation for thousands of years. Horses were absolutely essential for the functioning of the 19th century city — for personal transportation, freight haulage and even mechanical power. Without horses, cities would quite literally starve.”
It was a “crisis of mind-numbing proportions” that was solved by the invention of the car.
Socrates’s disciple, Plato, said the youth of his time (4th century B.C.) had no morals and their music was barbaric.
The following quotation supposedly came from — take your pick — an Assyrian (25th century BC-609 BC) tablet maker/ancient Egyptian priest (3150 BC-332 BC)/Cicero (106 BC-43 BC): “Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book….”
But, of course the world, one way or another, might end tomorrow, or the day after that. Maybe. Who knows. Although as James Fallows noted, “What looks like tomorrow’s problem is rarely the real problem when tomorrow rolls around.” He may be right. Or not.
In the meantime, here’s a piece of advice from Alistair Cooke that was mentioned in a book I recommend to anyone, Dan Gardner’s “Future Babble: Why Pundits Are Hedgehogs and Foxes Know Best”: “In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So, it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it puts off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”
Zaldy Dandan is the editor of the NMI’s oldest newspaper, Marianas Variety.