A FaceBook friend posed this question. It was a good opportunity to give a reasonable summary of my current thoughts on the world, so I’m also placing my answer here. (Revised 23 January 2014)
Better. But I have to keep reminding myself that.
Everything looks pretty horrible at the moment, but I think it’s largely because, having made such great strides over the last few centuries, and even the last few decades, some of us are more keenly aware of how very far we have yet to go, than anyone was before.
But racial problems, while still very much problems, are still at the lowest they’ve ever been. Racism and some other forms of bigotry have been forced into hiding and become, sometimes, more difficult to recognize—often even the people who act with prejudice, do so subconsciously—but even the worst forms of “hidden” bigotry are loads better than the open hatred of the majority that ruled the last century.
Nationalism is a good deal less widespread than in the past, though those who remain nationalistic hold it with at least as much zeal as ever.
Minds are still being misled, controlled, and pacified by the powers that be, and while those who resist are still the vast minority, it is a far greater proportion than any time in history. Those in power, have far too much power, but not particularly more than they’ve always had.
Reason and science is still widely deprecated in favor of superstition and fear, but not as effectively as in the past. These last several generations have seen immensely more open access to information in general than has ever been available, in all areas, making it more difficult to misinform (a crucial tool for maintaining control in a pseudo-democracy), at least for those who are interested in truth.
However, the powerful have learned to be more deceptive and subtle in their control and pacification techniques. They’ve learned that people do not tolerate blatant and obvious injustices done in their name, and yet all they need to do is obfuscate it only slightly, or give people enough doubt to assure themselves with. The age of empires has ended: the people do not tolerate it. But imperialism continues nonetheless, and empires persist in as great a force as ever, without calling themselves empires: pretending to allow subject nations their sovereignty, while maintaining control over the real sources of power.
And, of course, social problems that never existed before the advent of civilization (i.e., in tribal cultures), such as hungry under-classes living amidst prosperity, severe poverty, many forms of crime, and a variety of problems that were born with the notion of property, are still as present as they have been since the dawn of “civilization”.
Still, overall, I’d say, much much better, and yet still so frustratingly far from right.