Great­ness lies for­ward, not back

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Paul Berton

If you were born male, white and able-bod­ied in most of the de­vel­oped world, you won life’s big­gest lot­tery.

In North Amer­ica and Europe es­pe­cially, it has meant an ex­is­tence of rel­a­tive ease. Sure, there have been hard­ships and sac­ri­fices and tragedies, but for the most part, re­wards have come pre­dictably. The world was your oys­ter, and ought to have been; it was de­signed by and for you.

Even just be­ing male makes your life better in most of the world. Women have al­most al­ways suf­fered the brunt of his­tory’s cru­el­ties in ways men can­not imag­ine, even if they tried.

But life is chang­ing. Hu­man­ity is slowly (very slowly) rec­og­niz­ing the ap­palling in­jus­tices of the past and present. De­mo­graph­ics are shift­ing. Pop­u­la­tions are mov­ing. So­cial mores are ad­just­ing.

And white males see their his­toric con­trol erod­ing as the play­ing field is lev­elled.

That’s why we have politi­cians in the United States promis­ing to bring back the good old days and “Make Amer­ica Great Again.”

But of course it was great only for white males. If you looked dif­fer­ent, be­longed to a dif­fer­ent re­li­gion, and came from a dif­fer­ent place, Amer­ica was not as great.

A half-cen­tury ago, al­most ev­ery group of Amer­i­cans (and Cana­di­ans) ex­cept white males faced greater in­jus­tices, big­ger ob­sta­cles to suc­cess, and a rel­a­tively chal­leng­ing fu­ture.

Even for white males, how­ever, times have im­proved. The crime rate is lower and our stan­dard of liv­ing is higher, de­spite what politi­cians may in­sist. So­called “good jobs” may be more dif­fi­cult to find, and ca­reers are less pre­dictable, but dis­pos­able in­come con­tin­ues to rise and stuff costs less.

There are more hos­pi­tals and better treat­ments and less suf­fer­ing. There is better ed­u­ca­tion and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for al­most ev­ery­one, de­spite con­tin­ued in­jus­tices.

Rais­ing im­mi­gra­tion walls and trade bar­ri­ers will not make life eas­ier; they will make it more dif­fi­cult.

Those who de­mand (and prom­ise) that we “Make Amer­ica Great Again” some­how be­lieve in the math­e­mat­i­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity that we can have higher wages in our fac­to­ries and yet even lower prices at Wal­mart. They some­how be­lieve we can learn about the world from a cruise ship or a re­al­ity TV show. They think we can com­pete glob­ally based on lo­cal as­sump­tions.

De­spite cur­rent chal­lenges, eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic threats, en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, po­lit­i­cal mad­ness and gen­eral un­easi­ness, the world con­tin­ues to im­prove for most of us whether we care to ad­mit it or not.

There is never any go­ing back, now mat­ter how loud we in­sist upon it. Great­ness is ahead of us; never be­hind us.

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