Americans living in the 21st century can be some of the most spoiled, ungrateful people in existence. Including yours truly from time to time.
Our entertainment, work, food, clothing, books, and countless other products and tasks are delivered to us wirelessly at the touch of a button. In many cases, digital products have supplanted the physical edition. I love a good hardbound paper-and-ink book… but the fact that my phone can hold thousands of stories does conserve on the number of bookshelves I need.
Despite all this, I somehow find room to complain.
When a webpage won’t load, I grow incensed as the seconds or minutes drag on. This is especially true at work when internet problems prevent me from reaching a given resource or sending an important email in a timely manner.
But how can I complain when my job is so much easier than it would have been a mere decade ago? Just today I read about John Winthrop’s history, had a digital HR meeting, and am now writing this very article.
In times past that would have involved a trip to the library, a visit to a separate office for a lengthy PowerPoint, and handwritten drafts before arranging my thoughts in a compositor via individual bits of type. With the work that goes into all that (to say nothing of the physical labor of actually operating a printing press) why should I complain of a less-than-optimal transfer of data through the ether?
We enjoy such wonderful technological benefits by living in the 21st century, and such amazing freedoms in how we use them by living in the United States.
Meanwhile, Chinese censorship of the internet has reached a fever pitch which even has high-ranking journalists with Communist loyalties calling for reform. But journalism and writing seem trivial in light of countries like Venezuela, where people are suffering under a regime of terror, starvation, and repression.
Thirty years ago, my job would have been much more taxing and less convenient. Jump across oceans and a few countries and you'll find my job is non-existent. Any form of respect for the God-given rights we enjoy in America is gone as well.
Still, I find I keep slipping into the Homer Simpson mentality of life: “D’oh! Isn’t there anything faster than a microwave?”
If we (and Homer) were to view the historical context in which our lives are lived, we might appreciate the gifts of life in the United States a lot more, not the least of which is access to the technological innovations of the 21st century. Instead, we isolate ourselves, acting as if history starts and ends with us.
The internet and many other advances are powerful tools that can be wielded for wonderful good and unprecedented levels of human productivity, standards of living, and connectivity. There is no better place to utilize those tools than here in the United States.
Who are we to complain when the wi-fi goes down for a few minutes?
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons-Evgeny Tchebotarev, CC BY 3.0]