Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 November 2014

Mice in a Box

Some say that things are no worse now than they were in the past. I disagree.

Things have changed. Much has improved. We don’t expect bubonic plague or influenza to kill millions ever again. Science and technology have improved. Human behavior has not.

The percentage of bad actors may not have changed that much. We’ve always had abusive, molesting, persecuting, discriminating despots in our midst. Some acted at a state or national level, others lived just around the corner.

Some good people just shrug their shoulders and say it’s always been that way. They won’t admit it, but ignoring a problem is a good way to get out of working on the problem.

The problem is the numbers. The world population when my parents were young was two billion; before I was in high school it was three billion; shortly after my sons were born it was four billion; when the internet was a new idea, the world population was five billion; today it’s over seven billion. For the left-brained list viewer:

  • 1927 – 2 billion
  • 1960 – 3 billion
  • 1974 – 4 billion
  • 1987 – 5 billion
  • 2014 – 7 billion +

There are more mice in the box than ever before. Our box is still plenty big, but even a small percentage of bad actors equates to many more bad actors (and victims) today than every before.

John B. Calhoun became famous for his studies of mice in a box. Calhoun was an optimist. Will Wiles said of Calhoun in The Behavioral Sink:

Man, he argued, was a positive animal, and creativity and design could solve our problems. It was a source of lasting dismay to Calhoun that his research primarily served as encouragement to pessimists and reactionaries, rather than stimulating the kind of hopeful approach to mankind’s problems that he preferred.

Man is indeed a positive animal. Creativity and design will solve many problems. Can they solve all problems? I doubt it. Dramatically increasing numbers of every ilk make it look like we’re playing whack-a-mole.

We are close to eradicating polio on the planet through work with Rotary International and its partners. That last 1% is proving to be very tough. Some very dark characters are standing in the way.

I’ve coached, mentored, taught, counseled, and advocated for kids. I’ve worked for organizations to reduce homelessness, fight abusive behavior, and feed, clothe, and care for many in need. The needs and the numbers are daunting, and they are growing. 

What will you do? Let a government agency take care of things? Good luck with that.

How much can you help? How many hours can you volunteer? How big a check can you write? How much money can you raise? How much can you do? 

How much can I do?

To be continued.

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