Tuesday, September 25, 2018

When the alternative starts looking better

I am no expert, but I've watched with interest as Russia has developed military capabilities far advanced from those of the United States. To go into the details would be a digression, but suffice to say that, in my naive view, the only thing preventing Russia from preemptively annihilating the United States is the assurance that our nuclear subs and those of our allies would immediately counterattack and destroy Russia. And it seems the Russians are developing the capability to track and destroy the subs as well.

In the meantime, it may seem extreme for me to say the sub response is the only thing keeping them from attacking. This world would be a very different place were they to do so, and the thought of directly (through nukes and biological agents) and indirectly (through the starvation and civil violence that would follow) killing 320 million or so people is chilling to say the least. Why would they do such a thing? Because the alternative is starting to look very bad. The United States has committed so many unprovoked overt acts of aggression against Russia that it has, for at least a decade, severely impeded the Russians' quality of life. Sanctions, military actions, etc. At some point, whether it has happened yet or not, the Russians will be left with no choice but to attack the United States because the outcome of that skirmish will be better than what they have now.

This vignette is not the point of the post, but the situation it illustrates--when a poor alternative starts looking better than the present--is an important theme in the end times we live in.

Everywhere I look, I see a situation where the alternative--a post-desolation situation--would provide a better environment for encountering truth. This statement, I hope, seems a bit extreme, but let me explain.

The internet is a prime example. Never before has so much information been in the hands of so many so easily. Yet, the principle use by far of the internet is to distribute porn. It is so pervasive that it takes quite a bit of work to avoid suggestive images, as even ads today can carry inappropriate images. Then there is the time sink. Everyone is on their phones all the time. Children don't play with other children. Parents don't spend time with their kids. Spouses ignore each other. The cost of the internet is very high. And what of the benefit? How many people actually learn more than they would have 30 years ago because of the internet? How many serve more? What is the net result of the internet? It is negative. Though it pains me to say as someone who has made great use of it for good, we would be better off without the internet.

Media is another example. Movies have a way of teaching us that is hard to replicate in other forms. I could go on for hours, for example, about how The Hobbit wonderfully illustrates lessons about character and the hero's journey and undiscovered potential and order vs. chaos and so on. In fact, I have done this until the person I was speaking with told me "enough about the Hobbit." Some movies are instructive even if not positive. Saving Private Ryan is not a positive movie, but the grit portrayed seems necessary to show the horror of war, which seems to be one of the themes of the move. Are all or even most movies worth watching? Most are not. I am appalled by how many movies have completely unnecessary violence, language, and behavior that would lead anyone to assume that modern life is about killing, stealing, cheating, or lying your way to greater personal benefit. Movies have more subtle detrimental themes: there is no accurate portrayal of real life. Tom Cruise is made to look the same he did in the 80s, doing things physically that people half his age would struggle with. We are layered with movies about women in their 40s getting the man of their dreams and having their token baby. As a man at the halfway point of his life, these portrayals are harder for me to believe than a dragon who wants to kill dwarves. And yet, they are so extensive that people actually believe that they can like a hedonistic lifestyle and still be happy, that they can delay family and still have it all in the end.

We could do the same exploration for every aspect of modern life. The question is the same in each case: Are we better off?

I worry a great deal about today's youth. What chance do they have of developing a notion of right and wrong, of learning to sacrifice, of learning to work hard, of having meaningful relationships in life?

The trappings of modern life seem more like an obstacle to be overcome than a tool to advance progress. These young people would be better off in a primitive subsistence lifestyle, where they grew up in the presence of their parents, working with their hands, in a state of constant toil. This wasn't always the case.

I dread the fulfillment of what is prophesied in the scriptures. Yet, I know it will come, and I expect to live to see it. I don't want to see it, but when I pray for people today, I can't help but sometimes ask for the Lord to bring it. In spite of the unimaginable suffering it will bring, it seems as if every day that he waits, the Lord is allowing people to wallow in a situation beyond the capability of almost all to overcome. What's worse is that the experiences people have in the meantime are sometimes irreversible. Modern culture is permanently poisoning people. Just as the Egyptian culture was too much for all but a few (Moses, Caleb, etc.) to overcome, modern culture is something so pervasive that every generation that comes to adulthood in our present culture is one more generation that will have to die, for the most part, before Zion can really attain what it is meant to. That is a truly awful thought.