I’m so tired of people saying things like “the world is coming to an end” and “these are the last days”, saying how “they want to go back to nature” and oh how they want to “reclaim the gods of their ancestors.” All these things people chant in ignorance of the world around them and the history of humanity.
We live in a world where people live longer than ever, stronger than ever, where war is actually less prevalent globally then ever. People have been predicting Armageddon since the beginning of recorded history and time after time they’ve been wrong.Because of scientific advancement and modernization, we no longer live in a world where the average person lives to be in their 50s, giving birth equals a high chance of death, slavery is a global norm, or rapping raiders pillaging your possessions is par for the course. Most human beings in the world no longer think the earth is flat and sacrificing their first born son to their god, or their little girl to the fetish priest, will bring them blessings. Most people in the world no longer believe being an albino or a twin is a curse, or marring their daughters to strangers they don’t know, and don’t love, is an acceptable way to attain wealth and power. These key indicators of human well-being have all improved since 1970.
I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I can ride the subway with a woman in front of me on her cell phone speaking Arabic, wearing her hijab, with a man behind me rapping Tupac, with two teenage boys to my right talking to each other in Spanish, and with a little old black lady sitting to my left reading her Bible. I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I can vaccinate my child against diseases that once commonly meant death or deformity. I am grateful to live in a country where I can eat French pastries for breakfast, Italian for lunch and Chinese for dinner.
I’m excited to know that the future holds so much opportunity for the next generation. I love that my 12 year old son can tell me about the Analects of Confucius and how DNA can be manipulated, that he can process the moral lessons from biblical stories as easily as he can those from the teachings of Buddha. I get the biggest kick out of the digital animations he makes with his friends on his iPhone. I’m proud that he already has a passport and has visited 2 countries. I love that I can walk into his classroom and I see a Sikh boy with his turban sitting next to a little Jewish girl with her thick golden coils, and watch as all the students listen to their African American teacher.
What’s even better is that I have seen children in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Colombia, Korea, etc… with the same sense of wonderment and zeal. Children who no matter the resources available to them were able to thrive and transcend their limitations because they had parents who were not defeated, who were determined to push and overcome the odds to provide a brighter future for their children. I’ve been in places where people didn’t have a toilet in their home but they had a smart phone. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but it’s because they knew the real power is knowledge. I have a friend in Kenya who’s husband taught himself how to purify water through the internet because they wanted to solve their community’s lack of access to clean drinking water and now they have a thriving business providing clean, affordable, water to not only their community but others. If they’d had a “doomsday” perspective about life, they wouldn’t have even thought to take on such a venture.
Speaking of friendship, I’m amazed at no matter where I go on this planet I can find a friend. No matter how far I travel, I can find someone who is happy to speak with me in what has become “the common tongue”, English. And, from friendship builds love! I am happy to know I live in a world where I, a woman who herself is a product of the melding of two cultures (African-American and Colombian) can find love and partnership with a man who is white and of German ancestry….a coupling that in “the good old days” would have certainly meant death for us both.
Our human diversity, our ingenuity, our drive, our passions, they are what make us strong. And, it is our continued collective sharing and melding that have secured hope for an even brighter future for generations to come. Imagine, at this very moment I’m typing this posts on a tiny tablet that I can hold in my hand, no bigger than a sheet of paper, while sitting in a village at the base of a mountain in the very country my ancestors are quite likely to have been stolen from centuries before (Ghana). I’m transmitting it to you, and thousands of others (who themselves are spread out along the planet) on a wireless internet connection sitting comfortably eating my American meal, cooked by my French-speaking Togolese chef, in an English-speaking Ghanaian owned hotel, before I go to train my Ewe-speaking cooperative of rice farmers who are growing rice with seeds from China, seeds that have been cultivated over thousands of years by Chinese farmers to be pest resistant and produce higher yields. In turn, giving them an opportunity to feed and educate their children, who in might grow up to be lawyers, doctors, engineers. Yes. I’m very optimistic because our history gives me reason to be. Time after time we have turned suffering into triumph, over nature and over our own failings.
The answer is to be resilient, to be creative, to be active agents of change and address the problems we face head on, to remember the past with eyes open, rather than drown ourselves in romantic fantasies of the past based in ignorance, nor can we afford to fixate on a doomsday which might never come because we are being fueled by fear. We can not afford to go backwards and let the accomplishments of centuries of human advancement be forgotten.
We are surrounded every day by beauty and the possibilities are endless. We have so much to be grateful for and the evidence is clear that we have grown by leaps and bounds as a species. However, it is us who will determine if we continue on that path. We must remember that our tickets have already been paid for by those who came before us with their blood, sweat, and tears.
Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes (Diane Griffin) is the primary contributor to DG Speaks and the Founder of the Mercedes Parra Foundation for Women and Girls. She is an internationally recognized expert in marketing and micro-enterprise development with over fifteen years of experience in the US, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Working in the areas of international development, education, and public policy, her career is focused on promoting gender equity, sustainable economic growth, and positive social development.