Categorized | Josefowitz_Natasha, USA

We need to know the past, for it predicts the future

By Natasha Josefowitz, Ph.D.

Natasha Josefowitz

LA JOLLA, California — Reading the paper and watching the news on television increases my stress hormones on a daily basis. Like many of us today, I am depressed. There are so many distressing things happening: the growing homeless population, the unsafe streets, the increased drug use, the humanitarian crises around the globe, the plight of illegal immigrants, the healthcare dilemma, our failing educational system, pollution, the current state of world.

I’m also nostalgic remembering a time when people really believed that “it’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I’m of the generation who went off as Peace Corps volunteers to the far corners of the earth; who went door to door to tell people to vote (which I actually did for Adlai Stevenson); who believed in community, in mutual help, in improving the world. I never had a key to my home because the door was always open, and no one had keys to their cars either—mind you, that was not in a small town in the Midwest, that was in Beverly Hills in the 1940s and ’50s.

I used to go to New York City to visit an aunt and would walk in Central Park in the evening hand-in-hand with the latest boyfriend. It never occurred to anyone to be afraid. Later, as a social-work intern from Columbia University, I could go alone without fear to Harlem to do home visits. The cities were safe; the streets were safe; our homes were safe. There were no beggars in the streets (that was in Calcutta); no hungry children (that was in Africa); no homeless people (that was somewhere else).

What is getting me depressed today is the cynicism which permeates our world every day. “Attempts” to address our society’s problems seem only to be for show;  they are just “photo opportunities” for politicians and celebrities. It is the trend in our country today to place image before truth; whatever is said or done is merely for the purpose of re-election or improving popularity ratings. Out-and-out lying is now prevalent. We have invented new expressions to express our culture of falsehoods: “alternative facts” and “fake news.”

What can I do about this strange feeling of sadness that fills my days? It helps if I think in terms of centuries—dictators have come and gone; we have had mad kings and evil queens; we’ve fought wars. Famine, drought, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis have always been a part of our history. But all of the above, including climate changes, will affect my children and grandchildren. However, if we think terms of milleniums, the planet won’t care; it has gone through tectonic plates crashing into each other, asteroids hitting it, global warmings and ice ages. Our planet will survive.

Species have come and gone; we lose some every day. The polar bears may go extinct. Are we next?

Thinking in terms of centuries and milleniums helps to give me a perspective for the long term, but what would make me less depressed is the possibility of a different political and economic agenda. One where we all become responsible adults caring for each other, for those near us as well as those living on other continents.

I really want to adopt the hundreds of children starving today, to feed them and love them, and send them to school. I also want to find jobs for the jobless and teach them the skills they need to earn a decent living. I want to counsel all new parents to read to their children, all newlyweds on how to deal with conflict, and all of those who just experienced a loss how to be resilient and heal.

I guess I just want to fix the world into my own image of what it should look like, be like. The problem is that not everyone shares my vision. So, in the meantime, all I can do is continue writing these columns.

© Natasha Josefowitz. This article appeared initially in the La Jolla Village News. You may comment to [email protected]


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