Well, more than usual. (Usual being my frame of reference which due to my age is the '90s onward.)
"We are all special cases." - Camus
I'll suggest a few reasons why you might think this & then make an observation or two:
1) We are going through a period of relative turmoil as TH suggested, it does happen, but its not especially bad in comparative terms. it is no worse than the last....forever really....and better than most periods;
2) We live in an era of 24/7 media with rapid if not instant access to trouble spots the world over. Further, every other person has their own camera on them at all times. It means that every little thing that happens not only gets reported, it gets those all important pictures & heart rending images. To give one example the Rwanda genocide of 1993 got minimal coverage & very little of it graphic or 'by the minute'. if it was happening now we would be getting hourly updates. Perception is reality. if a conflict happens & you barely see it your brain doesn't register it the way you do if you see something...anything.
Your perspective is the 90s onward. I grew up in the 70s & 80s. For others here it was the 50s & 60s. One member was born in France in 1940 & can remember the church bells ringing when the war ended. I doubt any of us would think this was particularly bad time. Not the best, but not that bad.
I was born during the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War and the concluding years of the Biafran War. By the time I turned 5 millions had died in wars & genocide Indochina & Pakistan and a famine in young Bangladesh. The Cultural Revolution was in full swing & the 'Red Terror' in Ethiopia began. I can recall the 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam & Russian invasion of Afghanistan. In primary school we made 'Kampuchean jokes' about the famine that greeted the fall of Democratic Kampuchea, little imagining the scale & horror of the genocide that had taken place. Standing in Tuol Sleng 25 years later I shuddered at the callousness we can have toward people whose lives we cannot imagine. Add to that what was happening in parts of Africa. The 80s saw the Iran-Iraq war, civil wars in Africa & more. Not a great decade either.
Overshadowing all of this was the knowledge that a miscalculation at any moment could just about wipe out humanity. If you want to scare yourself google 'Able Archer 1983'. Some people on our forum would have been among the first to die.
Even the 90s, your frame of reference, were worse than now. Yugoslavia, Rwanda and worst of all, Congo. Few people realise that the most destructive war since WW2 (in human terms) was in the Congo in the 90s. That's just 3.
Meanwhile peace & prosperity are more widespread than ever. Democracy has spread farther than ever before - the two largest democracies went to the polls this year & power changed hands peacefully...to 'outsider' candidates. More people are probably more free than they have ever been. China & India are jumping ahead. Africa is making huge strides (for it) and despite the doom & gloom the West is still the best place to live that has ever existed.
Things are unsettled right now, but generally speaking they are pretty good.
Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C
And it's not like the decade before 9/11 was anything special in that regard.
kato hits with usual German precision.
No such thing as a good tax - Churchill
To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.
As others have mentioned, increasingly widespread media coverage has contributed greatly to the popular perception that the world is going crazy and that crime (in the US at least) is getting out of control. When in reality the exact opposite is true.
24/7 cable news channels bring live coverage of anything shocking, terrifying, or outrageous directly to the homes of millions of people in their eternal quest for ratings. The ubiquity of smartphones with video cameras, and social media has amplified that effect even more. No matter where in the world something tragic takes place, somebody is going to be there to catch it on tape and show the world in graphic detail.
Back in the day when something like the loss of flight 370 might have resulted in a few articles in the newspaper, people would be informed about what happened, but not bombarded by it for months at a time. Thus the tragedy was real to people intellectually, but without the same level of emotional connection that makes them feel as if they experienced it first hand.
Some data about Asia and the Pacific, from “Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013:”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ca. 1990 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Latest Data
People in poverty (PPP1.25/day)_ _ _ 51.7% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 18.3% (2011)
Share of global poverty population
living in Asia and the Pacific _ _ _ _ _ _ 67.7% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 54.0% (2011)
Living with food insecurity _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 22% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 13% (2010-12)
Access to safe drinking water _ _ _ _ _ 73% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 91% (2011)
Share of global population without access to safe drinking water
living in Asia and the Pacific _ _ _ _ _ _ 69.6% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 46.4% (2011)
Infant mortality rate _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 60% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _32% (2011)
Child mortality rate _ _ _ __ _ _ _ 81.5/1,000 _ _ _ _ _ _40.3/1,000 live births (2011)
Under 5 yr underweight child _ _ _ _ _ 32% _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _22% (2011)
Maternal deaths_ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ 369/100,000 _ _ _ _ _ _142/100,000 live births (2010)
Cases of malaria _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 200/100,000 (2000) _ _ _ 136/100,000 (2011)
Cases of TB _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 167/100,000 (2000) _ _ _ _139/100,000 (2011)
GDP per person, PPP % rise p.a. _ _ _ 1.4% (1990s) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 3.5% (2000s)
And, the main reason for all this (IMHO)
Merchandise Trade _ _ _ _ _ _ _ $1,506.2 bn (1990) _ _ _ _ _ _$13,407.8 bn (2012)
Conflict seems to travel and bunch up like a psychotic Caterpillar... We've also seen a lot of conflcit as the fallout of colonalism sorted itself out and modern communications has moved every conflict to the living room.
40's Europe and Asia
50 Asia and Africa
60 Asia, Mideast and Africa
70's Mideast, Africa
80's Central America, Africa
90's Europe, Africa, Central America
00's Mideast, Africa
10's Mideast, Europe
from the US perspective it's understandable. after somalia, the rest of the world could be dealt with economically or kinetically, via the USAF. the biggest movement was the intervention in haiti. yeah, yugoslavia/kosovo/etc was messy but not OUR problem. the US stood victorious from the cold war, with japan's economic growth going into shambles, russia a complete mess, and china still in its post-tiananmen embryonic stage.I would actually think that since about '01/'02, the world has quietened down far more than believable. The decade before 9/11 probably saw 200-300 times as many people dying in 5-10 times as many wars as the decade after 9/11.
And it's not like the decade before 9/11 was anything special in that regard.
all of a sudden the US had hundreds of thousands of troops deployed, major muscle movements by the USG...yet in this whole time US economic/power strength vis-a-vis the world has declined.
we're living through the backlash of the bush years even now, as calls for isolationism are more popular than ever.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov
That's just the "we won, now leave us alone" syndrome. The US has been having that after every more involved war all the way back to 1776.
There is some logic to such an argument. The geographical position of the US means that we could probably eliminate the Army/Navy/Airforce altogether while retaining a robust Coast Guard and National Guard along with a nuclear deterrent and remain safe from serious existential threats.
That being said, I personally believe that isolationism, while feasible, would restrict the options available to our national policy makers too severely to be seriously considered. A strong military has served the US well so far, and while we have enough land area to conduct a defense in depth if required, the strategy of fighting "over there" instead of on our home turf is one I can appreciate.
I would like to see a bit more consideration of long term national strategy before trying to solve the world's problems with military power however. I'm all for defending core national interests and allies, but these optional nation building projects on the other side of the world are probably best left out in the future.
I'll get down off my soap box now
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