We're hooked on a feeling – of despair
Good column by Jonah Goldberg:
The great vulnerability inherent to liberal democratic capitalism is complacency. When we don’t teach people to appreciate what we have they take it for granted and, over time, they can start to see the essential things as trivial or dispensable. We think prosperity is natural. It’s not. We think liberty is baked into the cake. It’s not. The natural state of humanity is poverty, disease, deprivation, and fear.
Whenever I make the argument for gratitude, someone will invariably read me as making the argument for complacency. I point out that America is less racist than at any period in its history, and the reply is, “So you think we should ignore racism?” When I make the factual observation that America’s environment has vastly improved in myriad, quantifiable ways over the last century—cleaner air and water, massive reforestation, any number of endangered species recovered, etc.—they hear me saying, “We should do nothing about climate change!”
Gratitude doesn’t necessarily invite complacency, but it can invite, even demand, effort. If you love your vintage car and want to pass it on to your kids, you don’t automatically think, I don’t have to take care of this. You do the opposite. You watch out for rust. You keep it in a garage. It’s only when you take the things you cherish for granted that you stop protecting and caring for them. (That’s why I think patriotism is different from nationalism. Patriotism depends on gratitude for the things you love about this country and demands effort and action from you to preserve them.)
I recommend reading the whole thing.
It's a topic I've been thinking about for a while: the alarmism and negativity about everything from climate change to COVID. I worry it fuels conspiracy theories and fatalism. If things are really so dire, what's the point in trying to make things better? When it reality it seems to me we've never had it so good, and that while our problems are vast they are largely man-made, which must mean we can solve them too.