What is better than virtual reality? Anything. Anything is better than virtual reality. Sure you can’t dress up like an elf, unless you don’t have many friends, or fly, unless you’re… uh, insane, but often we forget how amazing it is to be alive, not to mention being a human.
Karma, Jesus, Allah, evolution, the all-powerful spaghetti monster, or [in a cosmic voice] the universe could have made us into a whale or an ant or a cow or a snail. And you better cross your lucky evolutionary digits in thanks we’re not snails. Snails don’t celebrate any holidays; they can’t use cutlery; they can’t complain if their network is slow. They can’t say “how ‘bout that rain?” because they have neither the cohesive thought nor the hard palate to form words—not to mention they’re slimy, and it wouldn’t matter if it were raining. Have you held a snail? Oh god.
The old philosophical “would you rather” question of “would you rather be a pig satisfied or Socrates dissatisfied?” would apply here. Although considering Socrates lounged about eating grapes in a large impractical robes and asked wispy questions about virtue, he couldn’t have had too terrible of a life.
The people who generally side with the pig assume our voluptuous pork pals have nice lives, that lounging about gorging themselves would be the epitome of existence. Their line of thought goes thus: If I could just lower my standards so low that lying in my own filth and eating slop was a good life, I would have it made. These people are idiots.
Furthermore, we, ahem, eat pigs, make them into nice tasty bacon, footballs, and vegan rallying points. An untimely death does not factor into many people’s plan for a happy future. And have you ever seen a sow flopped over on her side with a brood of nine piglets wreaking havoc on her udder? She looks like she severely regrets her life choices up to that point.
It’s fair to say most pigs aren’t living the dream and neither are many humans. There are a lot of things wrong, but Lord Almighty, the disembodied newscasters and politicians tell us the world is either going to end or has ended—whichever seems more dire. Guilt and fear have been shoveled out faster than… someone shoveling something really fast. And with all of the fear, some people glamorize the life of our corpulent fellows in the muck.
But wait, hold on here, slam that emergency brake, and pause for a soul-searching reverie. Lots of people have lots of things wrong with their lives—and those things are still important—but not nearly as much as we are led to believe. What are we really splitting our hairs over? Judging from the past election cycle: illegal immigration, the American economy, the Syrian refugee crisis, health care, terrorism, and climate change.
Okay, okay, let’s begin with the people who are supposedly flooding into our country. Frankly, it’s just not true. Illegal immigration to the United States (from every country) has stabilized ever since 2007. It’s actually gone down by one million people. [i] As for people losing their jobs in record numbers, well, the unemployment rate in the US has decreased five percentage points since 2007 to 4.6 percent, which is better than Canada (6.9), Australia (5.8), and France (9.9). [ii]
Syria’s civil war has been another fear bomb, mainly because it has boatloads of bedraggled refugees showing up on the doorstep instead of comfortably distant on late night fundraising commercials.
There are an estimated 11 million Syrian refugees, and that sounds like a big number. However, considering the total population of the European Union is 508 million, the total Syrian refugee population is about two percent of the EU. That means one out of every fifty people will be Syrian, and that’s if they all snuggle in Europe and they don’t head to Australia, which frankly could use some people (23 million people vs. 50 million kangaroos).
As for healthcare, well, Obamacare has been awful for some and has been helpful for others; healthcare before Obamacare was awful for some and helpful for others. Right, so they both kind of sucked. But what about the fact that we have healthcare and hospitals for everyone and an aisle in the supermarket with regulated drugs and initiatives to get overweight kids to stop eating so much? Those things are not normal. They are amazing.
Next on the list is terrorism. From 1995 to 2014, 3,503 Americans died from terrorist activity worldwide (excluding American soldier deaths), and most of those people died on 9/11. [iii] In the same period of time, 785,660 Americans died in car accidents, which is about the size of Denver. [iv] A whole city has died using the very thing you and your family get in every day, and we’re afraid of terrorists? C’mon.
Climate change could potentially be a much larger issue than a few radical Muslims who have their beards in a bundle. And like any massive problem that seems to require every nation to contribute (they won’t), we’re getting a bit flustered. But we, as a human race, have dealt with issues before. Look how many diseases we’ve conquered; look at computers; look at airplanes. We’ve gone to the moon for no practical reason except it was there, and it looked like it had some cool rocks—and blast it all it, we have to beat those Commie bastards.
As for every other issue, well, life is better now than at any other point in history for everyone. The total percentage of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 84 percent in 1820 to around 10 percent in 2014. [v] The life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically too. [vi]
We think the world is going to hell. Every single generation has in some respect thought their world was going to hell. Right now, it’s not. And the fact that we do care and worry so much is a good thing. Once we stop caring about school shootings, the planet, our healthcare system, and people starving, that’s when we need to start worrying. At that point we’ve succumbed, given up, collapsed in our filth, and decided, Hey, this really isn’t so bad after all.
[ii] http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000 and Wikipedia’s list of unemployment rate by country
Ben Rietema (’14) lives in Wanaka, New Zealand at the moment. Besides staring at and running in mountains, he makes a wicked hospital corner and can clean a bathroom like Gandhi (if he were a housekeeper) at his job at a local lodge. He also enjoys saying “HOUSEKEEPING” in the highest pitch voice he can muster before entering a room to service it. benrietema.wordpress.com/