Are We Better Off?

Our society looks very different than it did 10 years ago. Socially, culturally, politically, and more, are we better off than we were at the beginning of the decade?


Graphic courtesy of Katerina Limpitsouni.

Point (Joseph Dallas):

         The end of 2019 marks the beginning of a new decade, filled with new and exciting ideas for humanity. But before we take a step forward, it’s time to take a look back and see how we have fared since the beginning of the decade. Are we better off now than we were at the beginning of the 2010s?

         To put it simply, yes. The 2010s were a decade fraught with political polarization, terrorism, and some steps backwards in terms of culture and cooperation, but these issues are merely at the forefront of the spectacular changes that have been made over the course of the decade.

         One of the biggest advancements we have made is on the level of social justice. While it is true that not enough is being done in many areas of our social justice system, it is important to remember the progress that we have made. Gay marriage became legal in the United States just within this decade, a great sign of progress to most functioning members of society. Female and minority representation in government has also seen a jump, with star examples Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar leading a charge against a corrupt government.

         Some of the biggest growth in this decade has been on the internet. Access to the internet has skyrocketed within this decade, with more than half of the world now having access. We have seen the internet as a place of communication across cultures, with people being able to inform the world about their problems. The Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government, for example, have grown in support and strength largely due to the spread of information on the internet. With access to such a massive base of information, the public is both greatly informed and greatly uninformed at the same time. While fake news may be spreading like a wildfire online, we still have access to information at our fingertips that much of the world did not have for generations.

         Culturally, we have become much more self-aware as a society. I believe the internet is largely responsible for this, as with access to more information than ever we are able to be more aware of ourselves and our place in the world.

         Music albums about more and more personal tragedies continue to be released, and the idea of the artist has bled through with the idea of the artist’s personality, feelings, and experiences, allowing for more introspective, thoughtful work to be released.

         Overall, going into the 2020s, humanity is on a track meant for greatness. The problems of today will be mere text in a history book once humanity is able to come together as a species and solve them for the greater good.

         Problems today are everywhere in our society, and each and every problem we experience grows by the second. But we have to focus on the good we have gotten done, so that we may have hope to do more.

Counterpoint (Calista Headrick):

         It’s the end of the year, which also means the end of the decade. Ten years and a lot has happened. But are we better off now than we were then?

         Politically speaking, there seems to be more of a divide now than ever. When 17 people were killed and 17 others injured in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February of 2018, walk outs took place across the nation in protest. I was told to join if I wanted; to walk out and stand up for what I believe in.

         But others were not. They were told that if they did then they would get suspended, some even expelled. They were told to keep their voices silent and unheard. Only one singular example among many. It has only gotten worse. And that’s the sad part.

         Huge strides have been made for equal opportunities and equal rights. In my opinion, our society is more accepting than ever, yet in some ways there seems to be more judgement than ever on issues of race, sexuality, gender identity and expression, and everything in between.

         While individuals have more rights than in previous years, there are some major ones that are being challenged. The issue of reproductive rights has been a prominent one within the last year for example, as women now have to question what they are allowed to do with their own bodies. In terms of sexual assault, more women are speaking up than ever. We’ve seen things like the “Me Too” movement, letting their voices, stories, and support be heard. But we can’t deny that we still place the blame on the victim instead of the real issue at hand.

         In today’s age, arguably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen is that of technology and social media. I’d say there’s a bit of a love-hate relationship in the capabilities that technology has brought. Technological advancements have improved society in countless ways, but at a cost of what it does to us as a society of individuals. We’re more out of communication with each other than ever, as all that today’s technology does is divide our connection with one another. Reaching all time highs of addiction, it’s scary when we start idolizing social media stars, wishing to be exactly like them and nothing like ourselves. It has become toxic.

         There has been so much bad among so much good. This means that there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’ve made so much progress, more than we ever have. But that only means that we have to keep going and can’t give in to complacency. It’s our responsibility and our future—we have to decide what we want to do with it.

         So are we better off than we were ten years ago? It seems almost like a paradox. So much change seems to be happening yet at the same time so much regression juxtaposes it. So I’m not sure that we can define it as one way or another. But I do know that although we have to recognize the tremendous progress we’ve made, we still have to strive to do better. And I’d like to believe that we can only go forward from here.