There is only one constant in human culture: Change. There never has been and never will be any sense of stasis in how we interact with our world. Everything is always shifting, evolving, growing (decaying too, but let’s leave that for another day). We are a species in flux.
This change is at once so micro and macro that it’s almost impossible to find many unifying factors. But there does seem to be an undeniable sort of seasonality inherent to the construction of the universe. A time to reap and a time to sow, so to speak. And right now — if you’re willing to cherry-pick a few pieces of good news from the headlines — it’s beginning to seem like this might be time for a little optimism. A peck. A pinch. And not just optimism as defined by political parties, but for anyone who hopes to see higher-level values elevated.
Consider for a moment, the impeachment proceedings going on in Washington DC. Even if you were to believe that the president is the paragon of ethics and high morality (a belief which a single phone call with the Ukrainian leader makes nearly untenable), you’d have to admit that the entire process has opened the door wide to conversations about ethics and corruption on a national stage. Yes, right now that means Trump and how he’s used strong-arm tactics to serve business and political interests, but a spike in conversation about American operations in Ukraine has also led to an important discussion of Hunter Biden’s work in the country and the different sorts of legal corruption that allow people with proximity to power to enrich themselves in dramatic fashion.
Be heartened by everyone paying attention to these ideas. If we really believe that “knowledge is power,” then a Google Trends spike in searches for “corruption” can at least count as some sort of forward movement. (The rise in searches for “Ukraine” probably isn’t a bad thing either.)
Or look with hope at Greta Thunberg. Here is a young woman who has treated Climate Change as an absolute emergency because, well, that’s what we’ve been told by scientists worldwide who have given their lives to studying our environment. In doing so, she’s helped galvanize and mobilize a generation of young activists concerned about the world being passed to them. In her advocacy and commitment to her ideals, she has helped give rise to discussions about climate that seem to carry an invigorated sense of urgency. Rather than her words landing on the ears of young people who’d been raised in the era of mass consumption, Thunberg and her generational cohorts were raised in a post An Inconvenient Truth era. They’ve got a baseline knowledge and a willingness to change their habits. They’ve seen the docs and been spurred on by Jason Momoa.
This is how it goes with these things, messages resonate and their effects ripple outward. They grow and expand, eventually becoming commonplace. Politicians adopt them and then gain votes through them. Laws change. The world changes.
(Even if you oppose the vast majority of scientific experts and don’t believe in climate change, Thunberg and those like her offer cause for optimism. Because the desire for basic planetary stewardship shouldn’t be obligated to rely on data — its importance is impossible to argue with.)
There was a thing that happened in Liberal or Progressive circles after Donald Trump was elected. People loved to call everything a “dumpster fire” or “trash.” And the case that the world is indeed a flaming pile of refuse is always there, always ready to be made (look at the wealth gap, species death, or dying oceans). But when it comes to the other issues that are “in the ether” — pulling the focus of the populace since the presidential election of 2016 — there are significant levels of measurable improvement.