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Ignore the scary messages: We've never had it so good

POSTED October 26, 2012 7:39 p.m.

The scariest time of the year is almost upon us.
By the time Election Day passes the amount of doomsday banter about how everything is in the toilet uttered by those trying to gain election or to pass or block propositions will be enough to turn the most hardcore Pollyanna into a pessimist.
Contrary to the sound bit drivel that passes as a serious conservation about politics and the state of the world today, we are not about to enter the Dark Ages.
Take America's main mode of transportation. We are told it is polluting the air, causing gridlock, sending food prices up by consuming crops that should feed people, and making life in cities dangerous and unpleasant.
Cars are evil, aren't they? Our cities were much better off before the automobile.
Before you start getting nostalgic about the good old days consider this: The days when horses were the main source of transportation were no bed of roses. They were worse than anything you can possibly imagine today.
If you think that is a big pile of manure, you're right. There were 200,000 horses in New York City alone at the dawn of the 20th century - or one horse for every human. Horses on average produce 24 pounds of manure each day. In 1900 that meant New York City had to contend with close to 5 million pounds of manure.
The Currier & Ives-style images of that era don't show horse manure piled along streets much like snow drifts. It doesn't show empty parcels being stacked dozens of feet high with manure.
Manure smells. Manure breeds flies. Flies spread diseases. When it rained the manure problem got even worse. And let's not forget that horses are a big source of methane that - just like the dairy cows in the San Joaquin Valley being vilified by environmental perfectionists - contribute to the greenhouse gas effect that some believe will end civilization.
And, statistically, you were more likely to get killed by a horse in New York City in 1900 than by an automobile in the Big Apple in 2011.
There are issues with gas-powered vehicles. No doubt about it. But we're not going to hell in a hand basket.
Everything about a modern city helps most of us live longer and healthier: Wastewater treatment systems, storm drainage, closed treated water systems, and garbage collection are things we all take for granted but they play key roles in average longevity. Males born in the United States in 1900 could expect to live an average of 46.3 years. Males born in 1998 can expect to live 73.8 years.
Another biggie is safer and healthier food - if you're an environmental perfectionist make sure you have a defibrillator handily before you continue reading - thanks in a large part to genetic engineering and chemicals.
The list is endless. The things that we are being told we should loathe today would have been the envy of Americans a century ago.
So why do we bellyache so much?
The answer will flood the airwave non-stop for the next 12 days. We are pounded 24/7 not by political messages about what good someone is going to do but why their opponents are evil reincarnated. And if the ad takes an aim at the incumbent you are left to believe we are teetering on the edge of widespread collapse of everything from our financial system, cities, safety net, schools, and military to our quality of life. If you're the incumbent you're casting your opposition as a power-crazed lunatic who makes Mr. Scrooge at the onset of "The Christmas Carol" look like Mother Teresa in comparison.
The dirty little secret from all of this is that we make panic decisions spending money and resources on "cures" for our ills that aren't either needed or are remedies that are excessive given how overstated our "problems" are in reality.
We've never had it so good.
And that's not manure.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

 

 

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