Victor Davis Hanson reminds us that with all the problems we have, we still have a lot to be thankful for:
Could yesteryear’s Great Society have promised nearly all Americans that they would soon have instant information at their fingertips on almost any topic imaginable, from treating migraines to wiring a house to understanding Dante’s Inferno? Surely the kings, corporate magnates, and Wall Street fat-cats of earlier times would have paid fortunes for the knowledge that is now accorded to almost anyone with a computer at home, work, school, or a library, without the need of expensive specialists, scholars, or books.
Today, Americans have cheap GPS navigation systems superior to what jet pilots used 30 years ago. James Bond’s gadgets seem passé compared to the accessories available on today’s iPhones — all made available to us without a government program.
That’s just a start, after a page of examples he concludes with this:
this Christmas we should all at least give ourselves some credit. In the last three decades, the United States — through technological breakthroughs, improved worker productivity, and the importation of globalized production from abroad — has achieved a level of material prosperity for its 300 million citizens unmatched at any time in the history of civilization.
Quite simply, yesterday’s royalty would not make it into today’s middle class.
This BTW was the subject of one of the best articles the web had ever seen a few years ago, if you haven’t read Bill Whittle’s piece from 5 years ago called Sanctuary pt 2 you missed one of the coolest Birthday presents I’ve ever received:
As an exercise in perspective, let’s briefly compare our civilization to another. Let’s compare our supposedly soulless, banal, hum-drum society to the splendors of ancient Egypt.
And let’s tie both hands behind our backs while we do so. Let’s not compare the Great Pyramid to one of our skyscrapers, or airports, or hospitals, or even our shopping malls. Let’s take a moment to compare the Great Pyramid of Cheops with the most common and drab and ordinary structure on the block: The Great Pyramid vs. the 7-11.
Assume that we could transplant a corner 7-11 to the Egyptian desert, with all of the support systems that make it what it is. It is a tiny speck compared to the gleaming white marble sides of the pyramid. It looks small and poorly made. From afar.
Pharaoh comes by barge and litter to inspect the competition, laughing at the mismatch. He and his princes and a retinue of servants approach the plain, unadorned metal doors and step inside.
By the Gods! It is cool inside! As cool as the desert night, here, in the middle of the relentless day! Outside the servants sweat and minor officials fan themselves, but Pharaoh is, for the first time perhaps, comfortable in the middle of the desert sun. He turns to exclaim this wonder to his underlings, and — By the Ghost of Osiris!! The walls! You can see right through them!
Ten seconds into the contest, and already Pharaoh has been rendered mute by miracles.
The full essay is about perspective and continues:
Pharaoh is no longer happy. Like many of that era, he suffers from terrible toothaches. There is so much sand that even the grinding of flour produces bread that erodes the tooth enamel. Pain is a constant companion for him, and like many of his age – like many of every age, before our own – he suffers in silence. That is his life. This, the most powerful man on the planet, suffers just like the poorest. But here, in this bland, ubiquitous convenience store, there is mercy for rich and poor alike. Cold medicine. Medicines to reduce fever. Medicines for toothache, too. And medicine for pain.
In fifteen minutes, this Great Pharaoh will know a few moments free of pain. His children, whom he loves as we love our own – also free of pain.
What would the most powerful man in the world give for such a thing? How much gold? How much land? How many lives?
The pain subsides. And although perhaps not a good or a wise send off for a man with a toothache, the transcendental look of joy on Pharaoh’s face when he first encounters a Coke and a Snickers bar is a sight that his children will never forget. Even after he is long dead, they will always remember him thus, as they ride toward the river on the dark night of the new moon, the little palace glowing in the dark like a beacon visible for fifty miles and more.
Now, on the other hand, the Great Pyramid of Cheops is a massive, beautifully decorated and cunningly designed pile of stones.
Keep all this in mine and remember that 200 years ago, a sea-captain who had the power of life and death over people on his ship, still had to tap his biscuit on the table so the weevils would crawl out before he ate it.
Merry Christmas and let’s be thankful for what we have.