A professor of mine would often quip “May you live in interesting times.” For sure we live in such an occasion. Regardless of viewpoint, people sense something is off. Words such as division and polarization abound, and everyone is a Nazi or bigot in some fashion. In the titan crash of worldview is the seeming judging of history. Whether this be fighting the patriarchy, white privilege, tyranny, collectivism, etc. What I see is a building arrogance in the judge history that will harm us all.
The real question is…
Arrogance shows up in how we mostly likely would be LIKE the people of the past and not different. Jordan Peterson in a conversation lecture was more pointed by saying: “You’d more likely be a Nazi than Anne Frank.” The question we need to get to is why we would be more like everyday people of the past not different. It is hubris of modernity to think we are better and more evolved. You and I are not as good and virtuous as we think we ware.
The real miracle is…
Despite the fact we are not as good as we think we are, abject poverty is at an all time low. People are more literate now than any point in history. For massive sections of our world, mere survival is no longer the main pursuit. In the United States, pursuing your dream and career are bigger drivers than just existing. While poverty and homelessness still exists, it is VASTLY lower than any point in history. We’ve made insane progress over the last century, yet we are quite discontent. Spoiled maybe?
Economics as one example
Globally to be part of the 1% you need to be making $32,000 a year. According to 2014 US Census data roughly 70% of American households are part of the global 1%. According to same year census data every group’s mean household income was far more than $32,000. Meaning over half of Asian, European, Latino, and African American households make in excess $32,000. Globally and historically the debate in the United States about the “1%” is really between the rich, super rich, and mega rich.
A few more things…
Over the past 100 years we have seen improvements on the status of women, education for all ethnicities and genders, longer life spans, more access too healthcare, rise in living standards, drop in racism towards Irish, Eastern Europeans, Asians, and African Americans, improved working conditions, and improved environmental impact to name a few things. Here is one of the biggest improvements of today in contrast to a hundred years ago: We have vast amounts of leisure time to pursue things other than survival.
Why we are being arrogant
We have time to scorn the past. Something lost on our ancestors who could ill-afford the time to tell others how they should live their lives. That does not mean we overlook sins of the past. It does mean we should exude more humility in doing so. All ethnicities fought, murdered, had slavery, etc. Greed and hostility knows no boarders. For the majority of human history merely surviving with some semblance of shelter and enough food was a major accomplishment. Would you and I do better in their shoes? Our lack of gratitude and contentment would lean towards no.
The hardest person to lead is the person who stares at you in the mirror. (Another luxury we have!) In the ten commandments the discussion on coveting is interesting. The commandment acts as a warning as well as a law. In dealing with economic disparity Jesus taught soldiers to “be content with your wages.” In his discourses he instructed us to be gracious towards those wronging us. We want mercy for our sins, hence our cultures distaste for judgement. We want vengeance for being wronged, hence our cultures thirst for “justice.” Jesus says to forgive and show mercy to all. Perhaps privilege and patriarchy are not the real problems. The real problem is the person standing in the mirror.
Removing the log from our eye
We have more than any generation in history, and yet we are at each others’ throats. We are discontent. We covet what we do not have, when we have so much. We argue for reparations for sins committed by ancestors long past. We judge history with a hubris unsurpassed by time. We think we are better, but our hearts are just as grievous as those we judge. We need to repent from our arrogance. We need to show gratitude for what we have inherited.
Jesus delivered for us a cure for the struggles that allude all history. We need to learn the power of being content over anxiousness. The value of mercy over justice. The strength of forgiveness over reparations. The richness equal opportunity over outcome. The rule of meekness over tyranny. These are the examples of love over hate that Jesus gave. Jesus gives grace to the humble, and he stands against the proud. Let us pursue grace, for we can ill-afford our current pride.