This, the worst of times? Not even close.

Approx Reading Time-10Yes, things are bad. But our propensity to attach the “worst ever” label is short sighted, lazy, and frankly a bit thick.


The phrase that I’ve seen bandied around in headline text, or comment boxes, or on business socks, is that “Things have never been worse”. Both here and abroad, the diagnosis is terminal. Sadly, fair Lady Liberty will have the pillow put over her face overnight by the nursing staff for her own good. Tsk.

With the public stumble of Turnbull, and the first steps of Donald Trump over the edge into the garbage tip that is professional politics, there’s an earnest hope that we can only fall so far, that once we touch the bottom, the only way is up.

And for that, I disagree, because I don’t believe the bottom exists.

Things can always get worse. And this isn’t it.

I blame the politicians, sure, but I also believe that the problem lies within us, with our propensity to forget, believe and hope. For example, we believed that Turnbull would save us from Abbott, and now we believe that Abbott will save us from Turnbull. With the emergence of the new, we forget the old and automatically we believe things are different.

A more current example: on the heels of “Casino Mike” Baird’s retirement, suddenly everything is sunshine, lollipops and 3am entry in Sydney Town. While we may have slain the dragon, we should know that dragons lay eggs. Even if the name on the door reads “Gladys”, those eggs will hatch; don’t be surprised if the scaly face within looks familiar.

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To momentarily step overseas and reduce 40 years into a limp paragraph, the last great period of change, the 1960’s, was soundtracked by public opposition. Change was fought for, but ultimately not won. Three assassinations tore the jaspers out of the reform movement, and everyone sort of just moved on to disco. It was the worst of times. However, you could argue that this doomsday thinking goes back further than 1963, with JFK almost blowing us all up via his penis-measuring competition with Khrushchev in the original doomsday schism, The Cuban Missile Crisis. Those who sat through those frozen minutes in 1961 believed that things were never worse, and you could logically grant them that. Theoretical nuclear obliteration is a pickle. Since we slipped the atomic noose, we’ve gotten strangely lazy with our ability to handle, or rate difficulties.

But the lessons of 1961 is back in 1961, so we forget.

We forget that things actually have been much worse. I admit that the 2017 global rise of the Right, led by a tangerine goon sack, doesn’t look particularly good for the pages of history, but the ease with which we swing the boot into the situation, hissing “worst ever” in its awkward specky face, is a fallacy – which ironically makes the situation worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy. To bastardise a line from not nice people: “Things are the worst they’ve ever been, if you believe it”.

Things are bad, sure, but you could argue that things are sort of good. Yes, the rich are getting richer (standard) while the poor are being stampled on (double standard), but white supremacists are getting punched in the mouth on television, the world is uniting for the advancement of women. While the news is mostly fake, it’s also mostly true. We have proxy wars, but no global conflict. At home, we have division, but no civil war. The dollar is weak, but we’re not standing in a soup line.

Most of all, I contend that this may well be the golden age, for Trump hasn’t actually done anything (yet). The only tangible thing we possess is the fear of his future decisions. Perhaps we’ll look back on 2017 nostalgically, as a time where things were the best of the worst. Even if the future holds a Zuckerberg presidency, and we’re grasping for reason, I don’t think we should fear it.

For when we live in the moment, we tend to forget the history.

Besides, we’ve already been through the worst.

I hope.


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