(Essay follows below the podcast link)
After a calamity like the shooting disaster in Las Vegas, it doesn't require a lot of mental or emotional energy to submit to despair. It's not necessarily an easy thing to do, because surrendering to despair certainly is taxing. But it doesn't take a lot of decision-making, nor a lot of individual will, to go in that direction.
I can certainly understand why many people would choose to believe that things are bad and getting worse in the world. It's impossible to escape the bad incidents that occur, and it seems like they are getting worse every time they happen. To some extent, it's true: Every time some bad person commits a bad act, if the incident is publicized, there's a very good chance that another bad person will learn something from it.
Put another way: Bad people are getting very good at being very bad.
But we shouldn't submit to the idea that decline is inevitable. We have a choice.
For every step in the direction that permits a bad person to do harm more effectively, we should be looking for ways to amplify those means by which good people can do good things.
The balance between good and evil probably hasn't changed from what it's always been -- what's changed is that every act of good or evil has the potential to be amplified through modern tools, both technological and practical. And that's inevitable. What we have on our side is that most people are basically good -- there's no real evidence that any more than one or two people out of every hundred are truly bad.
Human beings are very good at getting better at whatever we do, whether for good or evil. So the question before us is: How hard are we trying to get better at doing the good?
Viral videos are such an ordinary part of day-to-day life that it's almost impossible to spend any time on social media (or even in ordinary conversation) without hearing about or seeing them. For as much as we recognize that a video can go viral, it's hard to understand why we don't spend more time thinking about ideas being viral.
Ideas spread from one person to another, and each of us has a role to play in the contagion, whether for good or for evil. So why don't we spend more time respecting and leveraging the power of ideas? Why don't we spend more time thinking about ways we can spread good ideas, just as much as we are willing to spread stupid cat videos?
There's no reason -- no excuse, really -- to throw up our hands in despair. It's not inevitable that things will get worse. In fact, the thrust of human history is generally towards betterment.
But we have to grab those tools assertively, deliberately, and with some thought, to insist that they go in the direction of producing more good. Bad people will get better at doing bad things, so it's up to the good people of the world to get better at doing good things.