What In The World Is Going On

Jim Blasingame After several years of economic good times concurrent with a relatively quiet world, it now seems that everywhere we turn these days there is nothing but bad news. Let's take a quick inventory:

• Since March 2000, trillions of dollars of wealth has been wiped out of investors' portfolios with the collapse in stock values, and there is no apparent bottom in sight.

• Capital spending by businesses hit a brick wall beginning in 4th quarter 2000, and still hasn't returned to any significant level, causing the economy to at least seem like we've been in a recession for the past 18 months.

• Terrorists attacked America on the morning of September 11th last, resulting in almost 3,000 deaths, property damage in the billions of dollars, millions of hearts were broken, and we entered what will likely be an extended war against an international ring of sub-humans who actually regard the lives of innocent people as expendable leverage for their evil cause. And even now, we live with the unsettling reminders by authorities that the next act of terror on U.S. soil is not a matter of if, but rather when.

• Fraudulent business practices by high-ranking executives of major corporations - on a scale that would indicate systemic malfeasance rather than isolated acts - have lately harmed shareholders, employees, and the fundamental fabric from which capitalism is cut: trust.

• Humanoids with the moral bearing of an apex predator are snatching our children - little children - from their bedrooms and yards, and molesting and killing them.

What in the world is going on? Has the world gone absolutely mad?

Hardly.

But please don't take this as my being cavalier about the gravity of the foregoing events. I am concerned and upset about all of these things, and I know you are. But before we write off civilization as we know it and prepare for Armageddon, let's take another inventory that should help put our contemporary news in perspective.

Inventory Two
• In the middle of the 14th Century, bubonic plague ripped through Europe killing more than 40% of the population. That was TWENTY MILLION lives lost - in 18 months.

• Almost FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND men were killed during the 4 years of the American civil war, with over 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh - in a single day.

* It has been estimated that FIFTY MILLION people succumbed worldwide to the so-called Spanish influenza, including 600,000 Americans - in 1918. During the single month of October 1918, 195,000 Americans died from this pandemic.

• Russia had its own plague called Joseph Stalin. It has been estimated that Stalin was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of FORTY MILLION of his countrymen during what was called "the purge," including several million executed, 10 million falsely imprisoned who were never released, and tens of millions starved to death.

•• And while Stalin was raising the bar for a reign of terror, a contemporary named Adolph Hitler couldn't quite measure up. Hitler only murdered TWELVE MILLION people, including 6 millions Jews in what the Nazi's called The Final Solution, plus, according to Holocaust researcher, Gordon McFee, 6 million gypsies, priests, and others who were either in Hitler's way, or who didn't fit his paradigm for the Aryan race.

• The 1929 stock market crash wiped out fortunes to the degree that it is still the sell-off event by which all others are measured.

• Following closely behind, there was a decade-long global economic holocaust called the Great Depression. It also is the economic downturn by which all others are measured.

• One of my earliest memories is of getting the perennial parental instruction, "Don't talk to, take candy from, or get in a car with a stranger." Few things are more horrific and heartbreaking than when we learn of violence perpetrated on a child. But in truth, evil people have been harming children throughout history.

Perhaps English novelist, Aldous Huxley, was taking this same inventory when he mused darkly that, "Maybe this world is another planet's hell."

Hopefully my second list has put the first one at least a little bit in perspective. But even so, the news still hurts, doesn't it. Here, in my opinion, are three reasons why:

TMI
We live in the information age, and this is a good thing. Most informed people knew Stalin and Hitler were sociopathic murderers. But even political, diplomatic, and military professionals didn't know the magnitude of their evilness until the devastation was over. If CNN had existed in 1940, perhaps millions of murders could have been prevented.

But sometimes I think we have too much information.

As horrible as the plague of the 14th Century was, the level of destruction of that pandemic wasn't quantified for years, perhaps centuries. If it happened today, CNN coverage would depress us with an up-to-the-minute body count on the "Plague Watch."

Today we don't have news coverage - we have ad nauseam news coverage. Much of this news bombardment we can't even use. And of course, it seems that almost all news today is the bad kind.

Life is more precious today
For most of the history of civilization, children were more the perfunctory product of adults taking a mate than anything else. Today, we have children because we want them and actually imagine how we will love them even before they are born.

Once, high child mortality was the rule. In the industrialized world today, parents expect every child to become an adult. We have hopes for them; what they will achieve; the happiness they will have - and create.

And as human life expectancy lengthens and quality of life improves, our lives, and those of others, become more precious.

More Americans own stocks than ever before
Ten years ago, less than 20% of Americans were invested in the stock market. The 1987 crash was more of an economic bummer in the tri-state area around Wall Street than it was in the rest of the U.S.

Today, that investor percentage is closer to 50%. THE economy - on Main Street - is based more on even-keel - almost boring - fundamentals. Wall Street practices fundamentals, too, but it can also be heavily influenced by emotion on a day-to-day basis. And speaking of day-to-day, with Wall Street we also get a daily scorecard. With more people investing, when the news is bad, more people are sad.

Let's Review
• Are people more evil today than in times past? Hardly. But, the evil do have better technology available to help them leverage evilness in ways not available to their historic comrades in infamy.

• Is there more bad news today than there was in "the good old days?" No, just more coverage of bad news. Note to news directors: News doesn't have to be synonymous with bad. There are good things happening out there. Could we have some of that, too, please?

• Is the U.S. economy in trouble? Relative to what? Look around: Yes, there are some challenges, but the U.S. economy is sound (the Fed recently projected 2002 growth at a healthy 3.5%), and fundamentally stronger than at any other time in history.

• Is there more hope for the human race today than any other time in history? Yes. But, also more than any other time in history, today our future rests more in our own hands - and minds.

Write this on a rock... When you marry our heightened sensibilities with up-to-the-nanosecond negative news coverage and greater investment in the emotional stock market, you've got the potential for a hand wringing, neurotic, basket case of a populace. Let's all take a deep breath, recognize our many blessings, keep working, and as good people, commit to doing our part to fight evil in the world and restoring trust in the marketplace.

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