[Paleopsych] Atlas Sphere: Good Happens, Too

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Good Happens, Too

[Increased attention to Frank Sinatra as a sign of things getting better??]

    By Jeffrey Perren
    Nov 30, 2005

    In response to a recent comment of mine, someone asked me for some
    examples of good things that have happened in the last thirty-five
    So here's a partial inventory. Some of the things listed are personal,
    some are global, with lots in between. Of course, all of the
    categories listed below are tightly interrelated.


    The opportunity to meet like-minded, reasonable, and good people is
    greater today than it was in prior decades. Just as one example, I
    would've been very unlikely thirty-five years ago to have 'met' and
    'conversed' with some of the fine Ayn Rand admirers I've corresponded
    with recently.
    Many could say the same.


    Despite abysmally poor U.S. K-12 (and even college) education, more
    people are sharing more good ideas and useful information than ever
    before in history. The opportunity for this kind of
    cross-fertilization simply didn't exist even as recently as ten years
    Obviously, the Internet is one major factor, but there are others.
    The Internet made sharing ideas easy and cheap, but even in the print
    world there are more magazines now to satisfy every possible interest
    than ever before.
    In addition, we've now been the recipients of decades of beneficial
    influences: Rand, some conservative thinkers (Sowell, for example), a
    general rise in the number of large bookstore chains, and the failure
    of grand social experiments. These provide helpful theoretical
    guidance and useful empirical evidence, allowing us to lead wiser


    Evolving mores have driven to historically unprecedented low levels
    the amount and severity of sexual and racial prejudice, rigid
    adherence to restrictive social behavior, etc. (These are a couple of
    the few good effects of the 60s.) This 'moral anarchy' creates an
    opportunity for better, and better-grounded, practices to emerge. The
    near monolithic thinking that characterized the intellectual
    atmosphere of the first several decades of the twentieth century is
    gone, probably for good.
    Yes, there certainly has been produced far too much post-modern,
    nihilistic, irrationalist garbage from some of the same causes but
    this article is about the good things.


    In my lifetime alone the Soviet Union has morphed, and is no longer an
    active threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world. The Berlin Wall
    has been dismantled and Germany re-united. These are not small things.
    Many formerly socialist countries, India and Argentina to choose only
    two examples, have moved considerably toward greater freedom.
    The Middle East, so very troublesome now, is being actively dealt with
    instead of sitting to stew to become an even bigger problem later.
    (Yes, this one is in the nature of a prediction, but the present good
    is that the U.S. is no longer standing idly by.)
    The current heated controversies about foreign policy, domestic
    policy, and the debates about the character of politicians on both
    major sides of the aisle are actually good.
    Just as two examples, no one would've been willing to so much as
    seriously discuss radical changes to tax codes and Social Security
    until recently.
    Thirty-five years ago there was plenty of complaining about all these
    things, but much more uniform opinion and much less real debate. We
    now have considerable historical experience with socialism and the
    welfare state, much better grounded arguments for various desired
    outcomes, and much more substantial disagreements and clearly
    distinguishable views. This is a necessary prelude to improving the
    present situation.
    And there is much more divided opinion within the two major U.S.
    parties, with more viable potential alternatives to both than ever


    Ayn Rand's novels continue to sell phenomenally well. Tom Clancy,
    Michael Crichton, and Ken Follett continue to write bestsellers. J.K.
    Rowling's recently released novel made her $36 million in one day,
    and, to date, her books have sold almost 270 million units.
    I'm not arguing that these latter writers are anywhere near being in
    the same league artistically or philosophically; but their novels are
    not full of degraded people whining about their miserable lives. Quite
    the reverse. Yes, plenty of the opposite still dominates the
    publishing industry. Again, this article is about the good things.
    The dreck produced too often by Hollywood from the 70s to the present
    is lately accompanied by offerings such as Braveheart, Air Force One,
    What Women Want, Titanic, Patriot Games, and others. (I'm not making
    the case that these are great movies, but they're much more reflective
    of the spirit of the 40s and 50s than those produced during the late
    60s to early 80s, after which the trend began to reverse. And none of
    them would likely have been produced during that time.)
    In fine painting, Jack Vettriano, Chen Yifei , and a score of other
    'romantic realist' painters have been making a living. In some cases,
    doing very well, thank you. This is not something you would've been
    likely to see thirty-five years ago.
    Most popular 'music' continues to be as bad as ever. But with improved
    distribution mechanisms young people are being (re)introduced to Frank
    Sinatra, Puccini, and many others who are more popular than they were
    twenty years ago. This can't help but encourage composers to actually
    write new good music.
    Post-modernism is rapidly coming to a close as an active artistic
    force. This, along with a much wider variety of much less expensive
    distribution channels, creates an opportunity for more art that is
    consistently good to be commercially successful.


    The improvements in this area are pretty obvious. Today we have
    internet-enabled cell phones, faster and smaller computers, the
    Internet, satellite TV and radio, artificially increased tree
    production, a larger average home size, and more efficient heating and
    air conditioning systems. In the area of biotech products, there are
    genetically altered food as well as enhanced agriculture in general,
    improved pharmaceutical products, and medical technology (e.g., CATs,
    NMRs, artificial organs).
    All these have either been introduced or substantially improved in the
    last thirty five years.


    There has been a fairly recent widespread revival of concern for
    ethics in everyday life. (Granted, much of the answers to such concern
    have been wrong-headed. For the last time, I'm focusing on the good
    There's much more discussion today about authentic values and
    non-Nietzschean, non-Pragmatist style self-interest than was the case
    before. The general atmosphere up until the last few years was that
    people didn't think much about the harm they did to themselves or to
    Theories of rational self-interest and other positive intellectual
    forces are definitely having an effect. It's up to us to make sure the
    right side wins.

    The need to solve serious problems is hardly gone likely it never will
    be. But a sense of perspective, and a recognition of the positive
    changes of the last few decades, may help counter-balance the tendency
    to despair or cynicism that too often colors the enthusiasm for life
    of many. Personally, I'm looking forward to the next fifty years.

    [1]Jeffrey Perren is a novelist with a background in Physics and
    Philosophy. His latest novel, The Geisha Hummingbird (in progress), is
    the story of a ship designer whose fiancé disappears on the eve of her
    wedding, amidst a whirlpool of industrial espionage.


    1. http://www.theatlasphere.com/directory/profile.php?id=1488

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