Is It A Cruel World?

News today can be very depressing. Every day, we see stories of mass shootings, environmental devastation, government corruption, war and bloodshed, and global pandemics.

Is this the natural state of human affairs?

On the one hand, things seem to be constantly improving. Our knowledge is cumulative, and today we know more about how the universe works than ever before. And with that knowledge, we are able to manipulate the world around us with ever-increasing ability and refinement.

On the other, we keep repeating mistakes of the past. We continue to be ruled by our coarser natures of suspicion, intolerance, and greed. Atrocities happen at home and abroad. History is filled with shameful events in all times and locations, and today is no exception.

The hope would be that our society is moving toward a better world. One where our lives are longer, happier, healthier, and more productive.

However, that may be only a dream and not reality. The more complicated our lives become, the more stress we feel. We don’t sleep enough. We tend to eat unhealthy food and to be overweight. We work long hours. We don’t get enough exercise. We sit in traffic. We use drugs to start our day, and again to end it. We pollute our air and our water. We make products that have a one time, limited use but that remain in our environment for centuries.

Is the chaos of our current society a stepping stone to a brighter future? Or is it our fate to live a life of struggle and uncertainty? Will our descendants inherit a world that is better than our current one, or one that is just as bad or maybe worse? And do we have the power to choose one option or the other?

Is it a cruel world?

Related questions: Why do we put up with unhappiness? How have we changed? What are you optimistic about? Are we too busy?

7 thoughts on “Is It A Cruel World?”

  1. It is a cruel world. But we have the power to make it much less so. I am prone to hope. As an advocate for social and economic justice, I think active hope is vital.

    We live in truly difficult times, when hope is hard to cling to and act upon. Whether it be immigrant children being ripped from their parents’ arms or the waterways on Native lands being threatened by moneyed interests or the reports of suicide increasing dramatically over the past couple decades while our mental health system lies in tatters, active and passive cruelty abounds.

    But we can’t give in. Our future depends on enough people having hope for a more just and vibrant future, just as this has been true in difficult days of the past.

    I think cruelty comes in active and passive ways. Powerful special interests actively foment divisions between populations to create hatred, which serves either as fuel for distractions or as a method for creating a base that believes in an “us versus them” rather than a “we.” This, in turn, creates cruel opportunities like those listed above.

    There is also passive cruelty. “If it doesn’t impact me, why should I get involved?”-thinking accepts a world where the powerful and moneyed rule, some live in semi-comfort but with enough insecurity to simply cling to what they have, and many more get named the “have nots,” whose sentence is more and more that of permanence.

    And yet, I am prone to hope. I find hope in that while old age used to be a sentence to poverty, labor organizing helped create Social Security. I find hope in that after Americans saw pictures and TV footage of children living with starvation-induced, swollen bellies in this country in the early 1960’s, the food stamp program became one of the Great Society’s most effective programs to help those struggling in poverty. I find hope in that in my state of Minnesota love won and marriage equality allows same-sex couples to marry just as my wife and I married nearly 12 years ago.

    Now, while cruelty can be passive, actual hope cannot not be. I believe hope is an active verb. Passive hope, if there were such a thing, is simply wishful thinking.

    And so, in these difficult and cruel times, I ask people to hope, and then act, and then join others to form a “we,” and then demand that elected officials listen and act as well.

    Without hope, all is lost. With it, we can create that more just and vibrant future.

    1. Michael, I love your hopeful outlook, and how your actions and life work back up your words. We are making the world a less cruel place!

    2. You say that passive hope is only wishful thinking. But good things often happen whether or not we do anything to deserve them. It’s called grace.

  2. Yes, we live in a cruel world. History has shown that it has always been so, though, I think we are living in an unprecedented time of increased cruelty. One has only to watch the news or read the comments on social media posts to see that people are horribly cruel.

    There are some who work tirelessly to advocate for better conditions. There are those in power who do all they can to make life better for those who lack the power to help themselves. There are a few who physically work to create, invent and build solutions to the issues we face.
    Nearly everyone recognizes the need for change.
    Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to create more problems for every one that they solve. Those in power, must concede things to self serving colleagues in order to get help for those they represent, often to the detriment of many others. Those who zealously advocate for change often fall prey to their imperfections and, over time, become jaded, sometimes even developing cruel and hateful personalities. Those who physically work to create a solution to an issue, can’t physically work forever. They tire, wear out, and eventually pass on. And, as Michael indicated, the majority of people are often apathetic to the issues, we, as a society face.
    It seems to me that we can’t rely on mankind to solve his own problems. So, what is the solution to this cruel world?

    I believe that we must rely on God. That we must advocate for peace through a heavenly government. I am not afraid of opposition to my beliefs, but, I will not spout scripture today as I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I love to speak with people of all faiths, including nonbelievers. As a Bible teacher, I also welcome those who want to learn more.

  3. It depends on how big your personal world is.
    Sometimes it consists of many different factors, such as family, friends, social lifestyle, work, and other activities. Perhaps projects or crafts.
    I have a very small world. Please let me explain. I work, sleep, visit my husband, and on a rare occasion visit with family and this is considered social time for me.
    I don’t know what is going on with politics and other world issues. There is no room for these things in my life. Thus I consider my world to be small.
    Is it cruel? At this point in my life? Although I managed to adapt to the routine of working, dealing with my husband’s health issues, juggling finances. And attempting to care for myself.
    The world I live in is cruel.
    Yet as Michael says, that the world is ever changing, and there is hope.
    Some day my world will be different.

  4. We should not confuse cruelty with fairness. It should also be noted that cruelty and fairness are human interpretations of events. Constructs. Judgements. Is the world fair? No, and it never will be. It simply is. Regardless, we have to interact with it in some fashion. The emotions generated are genuine, but how we react is a choice.

    I learned some time ago to look at every situation or chain of events in the most positive light, usually by asking “what did I learn from this?” or “How can I make this benefit me?” I change (or try to change) what I can, and accept what I can’t. If I choose to do (or not do) something, I also choose the resulting consequence. I can’t get mad at something I chose to do, even when the result is disappointing. I still chose it. This is how I take control of my life.

    I cannot control what happens outside my immediate surroundings. I can only influence the outside world through voting, protesting and general support or non-support. I can also make things less cruel by doing what my conscience dictates is right or helpful. I help my friends, family and the helpless when I can.

  5. You say that passive hope is only wishful thinking. But good things often happen whether or not we do anything to deserve them. It’s called grace.

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