In that past of which they speak, only a tiny elite was able to read and write. In 1820 only every 10th person older than 15 years was literate; in 1930 it was every third and now we are at 85% globally. Put differently, if you were alive in 1800 there was a chance of 9 in 10 that you weren’t able to read.
Progress is a complicated thing to explain. To make it easier to understand the transformation in living conditions that we have achieved, here is a summarizing visualisation from Our World In Data in which the last 200 year history as the history of a group of 100 people to see how the lives of them would have changed if they lived through this transformative period of the modern world:
1. In 1820, 90% of the world population lived in extreme poverty vs. only 10% today.
2. In 1820, 83% of the world population had not attained any education vs. 14% today.
3. In 1820, 88% of the world population was illiterate vs. only 15% today.
4. In 1820, 99% of the world population was not living in a democracy vs. 44% today.
5. In 1820, none of the world population was vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus vs. 86% today.
6. In 1820, 43% of the world’s children died before age five vs. only 4% today.
Bottom Line: Those dramatic gains in living standards summarized above have to collectively represent the greatest improvement in global living conditions over any 200-year period that has ever taken place in all of human history. And what/who/which forces should get the credit for those unprecedented and significant gains in global living conditions?
I ask, who finally, once and for all, ripped personal freedom as we know it today from the iron grip of Kings. Who created the centuries old political system (and has gone to war to ensure it's survival) that gives man the natural right to self- determination. Who created a magnificent industrial revolution that advanced humankind as no other one single influence, save the accidental discovery of agriculture. And who produced the advancements in medicine and life saving procedures that prolonged the lifespan of man. Who ended, at a high cost, the savage trade in human flesh, an institution that they did not create. And who increased learning and knowledge by making the printed word available to all human kind? And who first escaped the bonds of earth and pointed us toward the stars?
These things, ideas and philosophies didn't come from the Middle East or Asia or certainly not Africa. They came from the minds of Europeans and their descendants. This is not to demean the contributions of other peoples who now help advance humankind in our modern world, nor to excuse the the wrongs done along the way, which at the time were the way of the world. But without the European mind we would not live in a world as we know it now. From the ancient Greeks, to the Romans, to the Enlightenment, human progress centered on European thought and actions. Not even the Dark Ages could extinguish the spark of genius.
Without that spark, mankind might still be just slightly above ignorant, short lived savages selling their captured brothers for a price, as they still do in parts of Mother Africa.
Thank You MJA for the Linkage!