In 1913 US life expectancy was 53 years. A few years later, in 1918 it would drop to 40 because of a flu pandemic that nowadays would almost certainly be preventable. In 1910, 8% of Americans could not read or write. In the south, that was 20%, which included 70% of southern blacks. Now, all those numbers are under 1 percent.

Leading causes of death were pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhea, all generally preventable or curable now.  Nobody knew that smoking was dangerous. Cancer, even tumors considered trivial today, was a death sentence. Even appendicitis was a significant cause of death, especially in rural areas.

Most Americans had not traveled more than 15 miles from their home and would never do so. (This changed in 1917, when we went to war in France.)

Chronic skin diseases were mostly incurable, so what was going on under all the wonderful clothes people wore in those days might have been quite disturbing. Most Americans bathed only once a week, and many not at all.

Pharmacies were filled with dangerous and addictive drugs. Heroin was sold by the Bayer Company for pain
relief. Anybody could buy it in a drugstore. Because of the pain of corsets, large numbers of women were addicted to pain remedies. There was little
regulation of food supplies or drugs, with the result that milk was routinely adulterated with chalk before being sold, especially in large cities,
and meats were notoriously dangerous, leading to the 1906 muckraking Upton Sinclair book the Jungle.

The cars of 1913 had a top speed of about 30, but brake technology was far behind engine technology, so stopping them at any speed took skill, and at high speed also luck. They generally lasted about 2 years, after which so many mechanical problems developed that they had to be replaced. Assuming you had survived.

I could go on, into the rates of lynchings in the south, the death rate of mothers during childhood, etc., etc., the difficulty and danger of travel, the endemic and routine injustice and cruelty, the choking pollution in the cities, the prevalence of things like lice and hookworm, but instead I’d like to say that, contrary to the ceaseless uproar of the media, in fact we are living right now in the best time in human history. Sure, a lot is wrong, but it’s nothing compared to the past.

Mankind is rising out of the muck. This, for all its flaws, is an amazing period, perhaps the best that the human species has ever known. Not only that, the demon of climate change, while very much with us, may abate before it becomes catastrophic, because CO2 levels are slowly turning around.

My best guess is that the long rise of mankind, which has been steady throughout our history, is going to continue and, unless we are struck by some black swan or other, is going to leap exponentially over the next century into undreamed of realms.

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  1. Thank you for this. It was
    Thank you for this. It was exactly what I needed.

  2. One other thing, among many
    One other thing, among many others that could be added here, is that diabetes was essentially a death sentence. As the father of a long term Type I diabetic, it saddens me to think of those unfortunate souls who never were able to benefit from the development of man made insulin. I truly hope and pray that just as insulin’s development dramatically changed how diabetes was treated, maybe in the not too distant future we will see diabetes eradicated, not only from ever developing in a person’s body, but also that those who currently suffer from it are cured. Maybe some day…

  3. Now that the information
    Now that the information about the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids is available, shedding new light on our much earlier civilizations, I’m not convinced our era is the best, just an interesting time-frame to participate again.

    During the 1918 flu pandemic, my great grandmother Tomasa, who lived in Oakland, California, did not lose anyone in her community, where she was known, trusted and respected as a midwife and someone who treated illnesses with medicine foods & herbs. She made a liniment called “Medicina Blanca” and it was applied to a person’s chest, belly, back and soles of the feet. A person was then bundled and put to bed and would sleep deeply as the “cooking process” took hold, to sweat out the bacteria, viruses and toxins. A day or two later was followed by a very warm bath in salts, taking care not to get chilled, so much care was given to create a moist, warm temperature of the room, warm dry towels, clean, soft clothing and clean air.

    This was followed by clean, easy to digest, warm medicine foods and fluids given to the patient. All the primary foods my great grandparents prepared were grown and raised on their family farm, following traditions from Mexico and Guam, where my great grandfather was from. He was a seer & bonesetter and the patient followed the protocols of both.

    When I was born, I remember looking around the hospital, seeing spirits wandering around all over the place–a frightening reality. I remember thinking, “Oh, no! I’ve been born into the dark ages. They (doctors) have NO idea what they’re doing here! (in medicine)”. My great grandparents were both gone by the time of my birth, so I was really on my own, in terms of figuring out how to be in the world and resisting fiercely, any attempts by doctors to examine, treat me or perform surgery without engaging in an all out battle. I have a history of coming out from under anesthesia, getting off the table & attempting to fight my way out of the operating room. Of course I have no memory of these surgery battles, only the stories told by the witnesses..

    I often think about how differently my life would have been, if I had known these two people who perhaps might have paved the way for my more indigenous being to transition more easily into the world of modernity.

    I have a deep trust that we’re headed for some very surprising and fortunate discoveries that return us to the truth of our beginnings on our amazing Earth, that will help us turn life around in ways our imagination is currently not developed enough to comprehend. Much of it may come from antiquity–ancestors who have left behind their knowledge & wisdom teachings in our cells, in nature, buried deep in our Great Mother and in the starry realms above us and below us.

    Ann & Whitley, have a wonderful & blessed holiday…and to everyone here too.

  4. As true as all the above is,
    As true as all the above is, I’m sure it could be written in reverse from some other perspectives, no matter the years involved.
    I’m personally glad that I live now, because We, as an amalgam of existence, are yet a little closer to balance in true creative realization.
    Onward sisters and brothers!
    Wave the flag of the Earth surrounded by the Galaxy! Celebrate Home! For We are Here and It is Good!

  5. I am exactly where I am
    I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now…

  6. On a world scale: We are
    On a world scale: We are approaching having had nuclear weapons for seventy years without (after the two bombings in Japan) them being utilized in aggression. At least eight nations have nuclear weapons, and have managed not to use them. I do not believe either the Christian West or the Islamic Middle East would have shown such restraint during the Crusades.

    Europe began to ban the slave trade beginning roughly 200 years ago, and within a few decades, the institution of slavery itself. The animal welfare movement began in the 19th century. Child sexual abuse and child labor are now condemned by much of the world. The situation of women is improved in many nations. Workers’ conditions and the treatment of the handicapped are other things that have vastly improved within the last century or two.

    Slavery, animal abuse, child abuse, child labor, the subjugation of women, mistreatment of workers and of the disabled all still occur, and widely. But two hundred years ago, these thing were all taken for granted, pretty much everywhere.

    On a personal note: Without modern medicine, I would have been dead, probably several times over. Without antibiotics, of blood poisoning when I was 12. Quite possibly in childbirth twenty-five years ago, without medical intervention with a difficult delivery. Quite possibly from either of two bouts of cellulitis, both of which were quickly
    resolved with antibiotics.

    I’m thankful I live when/where I do! Thanks for reminding me, Whitley.

  7. Spot on article to address
    Spot on article to address all those that complain about the living conditions today…. Not to say there aren’t great problems that we must face today, but it is evident that we are getting better at solving them with time.

    There’s really a lot to be thankful for so…

    Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes to all at!

  8. I remember a story my
    I remember a story my grandmother (mother’s mother) told me years ago. She & my grandfather had 14 kids in Massachusetts but only 12 lived to adulthood. That was because 2 of them (both halves of twins) had heart defects. Even though the defects were treatable by the surgery of the time, the hospitals refused to treat them if my grandfather didn’t come up with the money, and told my grandmother to “enjoy the ones you’ve got.” No charity in those days. The other bad thing I remember off hand, was that both my mother & father were expected to find jobs at 14. My father told me this horror story about being bundled off with a bunch of other boys out West somewhere to sell magazines door-to-door. If they didn’t get their quota in they didn’t get to go back home. My father ended up sneaking aboard a freight train to get back to Illinois.

  9. Whitley, thank you for this
    Whitley, thank you for this encouraging vision. You missed one thing: most likely the fact that no use of atomic weapons followed that perpetrated by our country on Japan and humankind, has been thanks to the Visitors. We know that they regularly take nuclear missiles off line right in their silos.
    You may have found out that this subscriber is a Catholic monk and priest — so let me say that, not only is the world better, but the Catholic Church is also a better religion now, after St. John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. Now we have Pope Francis — God bless him! Our church remains in many ways broken, but healing has come, thanks to a free press and courageous lay people creating transparency about the crimes of some ecclesiastics. Not only our church, but all the churches and spiritual communities are being transformed, through relationships of dialogue. But as a monk and a yogi, I especially want to thank you for promoting and facilitating meditation. There is the meeting place: in the “cave of the heart”!

  10. Your observations of that
    Your observations of that time period were a light shined on a Libertarian universe.

  11. I’ll echo what
    I’ll echo what BrindleBatwings said back in November. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you, Whitley.

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