Whatever happened to joy?
Perhaps one of the most famous openings of a novel comes from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Would that we could say the same thing about the current state of affairs in the world, but it seems to me that we can only say “it was the worst of times.”
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic tops the list of things which make it the worst of times, but there are so many other problems going on in the world that, even without the pandemic, a reasonable person could be forgiven for asking what could possibly be considered “best” about these times.
For example, climate change. The Atlantic hurricane season still has about another month to go and already they have run out of names to give these storms, resorting now to Greek letters. And that doesn’t include all the typhoons that have raged across the Pacific. Indeed, a small hurricane hit Greece recently, something they called a medicane. The U.S. Gulf states have been hit with so many storms it is a wonder anyone still lives there.
Climate change is also suspected in the devasting surge of wildfires that have reduced huge swaths of the Pacific states to ashes, to such an extent that a few days ago the smoke from those fires turned the sun orange here in Ontario.
Then there’s the human problem of refugees. Hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people around the world find themselves in refugee camps. These are, whether you like it or not, just ordinary people who have been forced to flee their homes and their homelands because of war, discrimination and political unrest. Just last week, a fire in a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, left 12,000 people without shelter. In the Far East, the Rohingya refugees are still being persecuted even after fleeing the country – Myanmar – that ousted them in the first place.
Talking of political unrest, we have the Belarus government cracking down hard on citizens protesting the recent elections that they and many observers say were rigged. The Russian government takes to poisoning or arresting political opponents. In the United States, there are concerted efforts by several governments to make it as difficult as possible for people to vote. On top of that, the U.S. Republicans have already staked out the claim that if Trump loses in November, the whole election was rigged.
Then there are those who are supposed to protect us, the police. Around the world, police forces are using tactics and equipment that one would more readily associate with the battlefield. The civic unrest and protests in the U.S. are not the result of someone being a little ticked off at the treatment they received at the hands of police. They are about the well-documented – and video-taped – violent assaults and deaths the police have delivered on people for seemingly minor infractions – or for none at all. When police have better armour and weapons than soldiers on the battlefield, what more needs to be said?
On top of all that, was there ever a time in history that produced so many – and I use the word deliberately – idiots? Those who refuse to live by the regulations that governments have put in place, on the advice of medical experts, to keep us all, including the idiots, safe during the pandemic; those who protest against a ban on assault rifles because they need them for hunting. Anyone who needs an assault rifle to hunt is not a hunter.
I will admit, this is a little dark, but it has reached the point where I hardly see any joy left in the world. Indeed, the only joy I find these days is in watching little children who are unaware of the evils of the world around them and videos of baby animals.
It seems to me the only hope for humankind is to rediscover those qualities that are so lacking these days: compassion and common sense. Without those, I believe we are doomed to live forever in the worst of times.
Tell me, am I wrong?
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