Are You Worried About The Coming Year?

While there is certainly good news in the world, there are several areas that may be cause for concern in the coming year. Are you worried?

As a new year begins, sometimes you can be optimistic about the future. However, if your tendency is to be pessimistic, there are plenty of things to be worried about.

A notable one, at least in the U.S., is that it is a presidential election year. Politics are already dividing our nation in a way not seen for decades, and a presidential race threatens to cause even further inflame tensions. As misinformation spreads quickly, the two sides have difficulty agreeing on basic facts.

Another concern is climate change. Each year is warmer than the previous year, which has led to a stunning number of environmental disasters: floods, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, and so on. The pattern would seem to suggest this year will see even more extreme weather across the globe.

Two ongoing wars, one between Russia and Ukraine, and another between Israel and Hamas, have many feeling uneasy. In addition to the increase of immigrants fleeing for their lives, both conflicts could have drastic impacts on the world.

Technology continues to shape our lives in radical ways. The rise of social media has left many users feeling isolated and depressed. The coming age of artificial intelligence may touch nearly every sector of the economy, threatening to change our lives in ways we don’t yet understand.

Is this doom and gloom warranted? There are also positive news stories — do they get pushed aside for headline-grabbing bad news? Is our anxiety legitimate, or are we kept in a state of fear by corporations and governments with ulterior motives?

Are you worried about the coming year?

Related questions: What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How is climate change impacting you? Will the future be better than the present?

 

Do You Follow The Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule — treat others as you wish to be treated — is a sentiment common in cultures and religions across the world. Do you follow it?

The idea is a simple one, easily stated, and easily understood. And yet, it can be very difficult to practice.

There are many reasons why you might not follow the Golden Rule. They might vary from self-interest, fear, or even kindness.

For instance, you might well think that you want someone to come to your aid if you are in trouble. However, fear might prevent you from helping someone else in a dangerous situation.

In another situation, you might tell a small lie to spare the feelings of someone you love, even if you think you would want the truth in return.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘Are we too busy?’


In our state and national politics, we see the Golden Rule violated frequently. One elected official, for example, may vote against offering aid to another state in a disaster, and yet accepts the helping hand when the disaster befalls them. No doubt you can think of numerous other examples.

There are endless opportunities to treat others the way you wish to be treated. In fact, just about every interaction with someone else is such a chance. It might be face-to-face, online, or from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It might include actions, speech, or even thoughts about someone else.

Can you think of notable examples where you followed the Golden Rule? Are there times when you didn’t?

Related questions: How do you serve others? What expectations do you have of others? How do other people motivate you? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us? Why do we hate?

Do Animals Have Rights?

The concept of inherent rights is well established for humans. Do any of those rights extend to animals?

Humans are born (at least in the United States) with certain “unalienable” rights, which include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Bill of Rights enumerate additional rights. Other countries may differ in exact language, but in most places it is assumed that humans have some rights from birth.

Other animals are not human, however, and human laws and ideas do not automatically extend to them. But what are the differences between humans and other animals, and do those differences really matter?

One difference, of course, is that other animals don’t have laws, or form governments. Why should human laws and rights apply to non-humans?

While it is true that no animal other than humans have written a constitution, it is not clear that a written document is needed. A colony of bees has a well-defined hierarchy, for instance. You could almost consider a hive to be the equivalent of a (human) country.

What about the argument that humans are sentient, and they are the only such animal? That argument relies on the definition of sentience, and there does not seem to be a way to know for certain if other animals are, in fact, sentient.

Human laws are often written for the benefit of those people who do not have any political power. They allow for people with little or no power to avoid being taken advantage of by those who do. That would certainly seem to describe animals, who quite literally have no voice.

And yet, there are some rights which cannot and should not apply to animals. No taxation without representation? That doesn’t make any sense at all — animals don’t pay taxes, and it would seem impossible to give (direct) representation to, say, a bear.

So what rights, if any, should (non-human) animals have?

Related questions: Does nature have rights? How are humans like other animals? How are they different? Personal rights or public safety? What are our responsibilities to others?

Can You Be Critical Of A Country You Love?

When it comes to showing your love for a country, is it better to have unconditional love, or are you allowed to be critical?

Unconditional love can be very powerful, indeed. Wedding vows are for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. In other words, unconditionally. A mother’s love for a child can stay strong regardless of the child’s behavior. And a pet doesn’t care about your looks, your job, or any other superficial characteristics.

However, those are all examples of the love one individual feels for another. Does that kind of love carry over to entities, like nations or brands? Should it?

On the other hand, being critical is, in it’s own way, and act of love. If you love something, like a country, you want it to be the best it can be. In order to improve, you might have to point out potential areas of improvement, and that may take the form of criticism.

But criticism doesn’t always come from a place of love. It can also come from resentment, or jealousy, or any number of other motivations. Is there an easy way to determine one way of being critical from another?

Some pundits and politicians denounce any criticism as being disrespectful. Is that valid, and/or is it helpful? Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell a loving critique from an attack, particularly when you are emotionally invested. If I love my country, and you offer a complaint against that country, doesn’t that complaint carry over to me, at least a little bit?

Can you be critical of a country that you love?

Related questions: What does it mean to be patriotic? What is patriotic behavior? When should you criticize someone? What do you love about your country?

 

How Do You Deal With Uncertainty?

Being in an uncertain situation can be extremely frustrating. Is there a way you have learned to deal with uncertainty?

Human beings, generally, feel more in control — and therefore, more comfortable — the more they know about something. In fact, that urge has been behind much of the development of science and technology over the last few hundred years. Wanting to know more, about how the world works and ways to modify it, is something that comes naturally to our species.

While this is true at a societal level, it is also true at an individual level as well. The more information we have, the more in control we feel.

For example, someone who has been diagnosed with a disease will often learn everything they can about it. Even very complicated systems, like the stock market or the political realm, people will study in great detail, trying to gain an edge.

In reality, knowing more does not always confer an advantage. So-called experts do not have a better record predicting the future than anyone else. There are plenty of examples of a basketball novice finishing ahead of a diehard fan in March Madness brackets, for instance.

There are certain times and certain situations that are completely out of your control. In that case, what do you do? Can you learn to embrace the uncertainty? Or instead, are there methods to feel more in control of an inherently uncontrollable scenario?

Related questions: What is unknowable? Why are we fascinated with the unknown? How do we know what we don’t know? Why don’t you know what makes you happy?