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Lisa McLeod: Why the arc of the universe bends towards better

Sometimes it seems like the world is falling apart. Race relations are struggling, children are being murdered, and even beloved cultural icons are tumbling.

It seems like the world is getting worse.

Only it’s not.

The fact that we even report on these things, and that we’re outraged, reveals just how far we have come.

A hundred years ago, if an evil regime on the other side of the world murdered children, it’s unlikely that many people would even know about it much less do anything.

If this were 100 years ago, I would not be appalled that an authority figure used their position to sexually exploit young women. I wouldn’t know about it because it would be standard practice that no one discussed. I would be more likely a victim, than a free press commentator.

I’m not saying that we don’t have huge problems. Evil does exist in the world, as do racism, sexism, bigotry, etc. Yet if you look at the general psyche of people, we’re kinder, more open-minded, and more caring than we’ve ever been.

If you compare the last 100 years to the previous thousand, the progress is stunning. A few hundred years ago, my daughters would have been sold off into slavery by the time they were 10. As recently as 100 years ago, they would have been working in a sweatshop sewing shoes by the age of 12.

In some parts of the world, children are still sold into slavery, and kids still work in sweatshops. The big change is that now, most of the rest of the world believes that it’s wrong.

Ideas have to be spoken before they become reality. Societal structure always lags behind societal aspirations. The last few generations of humans acted on ideals that have been around forever. Peace, love, kindness are not new, what is new is that we now expect them to be applied to everyone.

We used to think it was OK to kill and be killed in war. But now, we think of war as a tragedy. When my oldest child was 11, she wrote an essay for a book titled “If Women Ruled the World.” Here’s her take on why the world will eventually change:

“I believe that if women ruled the world, we would all learn from an early age that the job of every human being is to improve the Earth. There would not be wars and bombings of innocent people. Women know what it means when the news says, ‘Two people were killed in Iraq.’ They can imagine how the mother felt to have her miracle destroyed. This is what was it is, when you think about it: destruction of the millions of miracles women have made.

“It takes about 8.25 years of a woman’s actual physical labor to raise an 18-year-old person. A child takes 100 percent of the mother’s time the first two years, 50 percent of her time the next six years, and about 25 percent of her time from the ages of 9 to 18, for a total of 8.25 years of labor. Multiply 8.25 by the thousands killed in war, and you have billions of years of actual women’s labor put to waste in one war.

“You see, women get that number and shake their heads in disgust. They know the value of those years and the pain of the next 50 years, living with a broken heart.”

– Elizabeth McLeod, age 11

This is progress people.