Friday, March 30, 2007

Are mankind's best days behind us or ahead of us?

Dr. Helen Smith discusses a new study of 22,000 people over 50 years which shows that women are angrier than men. Dr. Helen writes:
The researchers speculate that women's anger is prompted by feelings of powerlessness caused by "entrenched sexism in modern society." As opposed to what, less sexism in ancient society? When sexism was more prevalent, women were even more "ladylike."
The myth that "modern" times have faults that were not present in earlier times is one that we have heard often and, as Dr. Helen points out above, seems to persist despite the lack of any facts to support it. It certainly dates back at least to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, and his concept of the noble life of savages:
In his early writing, Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a "noble savage" when in the "state of nature" (the state of all the other animals, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as "artificial" and "corrupt" and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.

Rousseau's essay, "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" (1750), argued that the advancement of art and science had not been beneficial to mankind. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful, and crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion. [emphasis added]

The myth of a virtuous earlier time is so persistent in human thought and is so easily believed despite the lack of supporting evidence that it must be built into the wiring of the human brain.

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