On the eve of the year 2007, it is evident to anyone with the fortitude to see reality that the world is not getting better, nor even staying the same, but getting worse.
There are a few positive developments. But they are mostly technological and medical. More people are eating better and living longer than ever before. And the Internet gives more people access to more information (and more lies) than ever before. But aside from medical and technological progress, there is little positive to report. And, as always, the technological breakthroughs are frequently morally mixed bags.
Almost wherever one looks, there are more reasons for pessimism than optimism.
Africa is probably in worse condition than at any time in recorded history. Though often exaggerated, great numbers of young and middle-aged people are dying from AIDS; corruption in Africa is so widespread and deeply rooted that aid workers are telling the West to stop giving funds to Africa because those funds only serve to prop up corrupt regimes and increase poverty, malnutrition and violence; about three million people have died in the ongoing wars in the Congo; and the Islamic Arab regime of Sudan has allowed or directed genocide.
In Asia, China, sitting on reserves of over a trillion dollars, is beginning to regard itself as a world power, and most of where it meddles, it plays an immoral role (regarding Iran's nuclear weapons and the North Korea regime). As China's economic power grows, it will increasingly seek to flex its muscles. This could mean tension over Taiwan, but it will even more likely mean that Japan will try to become a military power once again and perhaps develop its own nuclear weapons -- because of North Korea's weapons and because of China's strength and ambitions. A strong Japan, given North Korea's lunatic regime and China's drive for regional dominance, is a positive development but an unfortunate one nevertheless.
Russia, like China, increasingly uses its power in immoral ways, and its government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.
As bad as Africa and parts of Asia are, the Arab world is in many ways in even worse condition and poses a far greater threat to world stability. The Arab world is largely divided between corrupt regimes and Islamic totalitarians who await the downfall of those regimes. Since World War II, the Arab world has sought a solution to its backwardness -- first in nationalism, then in Pan-Arab nationalism and Marxism, and now in Islam. "Islam is the answer" is the motto of vast numbers of young Arabs (and Muslims elsewhere), and the Islam they are referring to is often not benign. Making matters worse, the Arab world is consumed by hate. Hatred and oil have become its primary exports: hatred of Israel, of America and of other non-Muslims in its midst -- e.g., Maronite Christians in Lebanon, non-Muslims in Sudan and Christians in the Palestinian territories.
This hatred within the Arab world is in turn the product of a culture that values face-saving over truth-telling. To this day, the Egyptian government and public deny that the EgyptAir jet that fell out of the sky in 2000 did so because the pilot, an Egyptian Muslim, decided to kill himself and all those on board. The majority of the Arab world does not believe that Arabs plotted and executed the 9/11 murders of American civilians. And it widely believes that Jews slaughter non-Jewish children to use their blood to bake matzos on Passover; that Israel spreads AIDS in Arab countries by sending AIDS-infected prostitutes into Arab countries; and that "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is a genuine text authored by Jews conspiring to take over the world.
The Islamic world at large is increasingly influenced, and sometimes dominated, by a violent expression of religiosity that seeks to impose itself on any society it can. One of the largest Muslim countries has declared its desire to see Israel annihilated and is presumed to be developing nuclear weapons that would enable it to do so. Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim worlds has reached levels most of humanity thought had been vanquished along with Nazi regime.
Western Europe is disappearing demographically and culturally. Like other secular societies, Western Europe is not repopulating itself and has relied on importing immigrants to provide citizens and workers. Most of them are Muslims, and many of them loathe Western Europe and its values. It is difficult to imagine any other future scenario for Western Europe than its becoming Islamicized or having a civil war. Western Europe is the first secular society in human history and consequently believes in very little beyond having a secure and comfortable life untroubled by war, work or children.
One society stands opposed to all these developments -- the United States of America. But that society is itself deeply divided. About half holds the values of Western Europe; and the other half believes that Western European values -- essentially secularism and socialism -- are anathema to America. The latter half believes America must remain true to its founding principles: Judeo-Christian values; individual freedom and small government; and a melting pot rather than multiculturalism.
Which side wins will determine the fate of mankind for a century or more. And you can't win if you are naively optimistic.
Happy New Year.