How did the World Work 100 Years Ago?
As 2012 is coming to an end, it’s always healthy to look back upon your life and see what happened and how it happened, to reflect on your mistakes and achievements. We are living in the best time humans have ever experienced, and don’t be fooled by petty feelings of nostalgia for the 90’s or the 60’s.
We have medicine and science that make us live healthier, better and longer. We have technology, predominantly computers and internet that have changed our lives and the way we think forever. Cars are faster, planes are faster, and food is better and plentiful.
To make my point clearer I’d like to analyze the year 1900, more than 100 years ago and to show the differences, vast differences between the centuries.
In 1900, the world population was estimated at 1.65 billion people, that’s 4.24 times less that of our current expanding population. 18 years later, the Spanish Flu would kill 3% of the world’s population (50 million) in just two years. Antibiotics were almost non-existent, rarely working; food, like meat and dairy wasn’t as tightly controlled as it is right now, and so something like salmonella or type-worms was common as your seasonal flu.
In the year 1900, regulations and unions were still a new, untapped idea, meaning factory owners were very much the stereotypes Marx was writing about: they were dictators, making people work 12 hour shifts of grueling work and paying them shit. Rockefellers, Carnegies and J.P Morgans were running America, before The Trust Buster Roosevelt stirred shit up and told the law.
Russia wasn’t Communist yet, plagued by poverty, disease and slavery. The British Capitalist Factory owners were fucking sissies compared to the brutes in Russia. Russians had their reasons to adopt communism.
England was still a super power and a world Empire. From China to India to Canada to Australia, Britain had all of them under the crown. If you’ve seen the movies “Gandhi”, you’ll know how awesome it was to live in India during the British rule.
Monarchy was still the most prevalent form of government, especially in Europe, where in 1914 World War 1 would start because of some bullshit. Ordinary people were still considered a mass to be controlled either through the rule of the monarch or the rule of the elite. The level of comforts we experience right now would be considered kingly and beyond luxurious a century ago.
The 20th century could be considered the most turbulent and bloody century in human history: Two World Wars, Communism and Fascism, the 20th century was a time of great mass “experiments”.
And yet we take our comforts and privileges for granted, we get upset when the supermarket doesn’t have our favorite flavor of cereal and when the WiFi is too slow and the line to the cinema is too long and when the chicken wings we ordered take too long and the iPhone 5 scratches too easily and Jennifer Lopez wore a bad dress and the seats in an airplane are too small.
We all need to stop for a second, all of us and look back at time where people were executed for slander and died of hunger, where your idea and expression of free speech could send you in the gulag or when the whole world was on fire and millions of men died because of some moustached asshole.
Humanity needs to reflect on its past, to be objective about our present and future. We will drown in our own mediocrity if we forget the struggles and pain generations had to endure to get us to the level of prosperity we experience today.
We can’t forget, we must not forget.