I have to make this point from time to time, even if it's only to reassure myself. Humans are making progress. Discernible, measurable progress, in all phases of life from life-span to education.
Go back a hundred years. The number one cause of death was influenza, closely followed by simple dehydration. People were old at 40. There's a story written in the 30's called "The Eighty Yard Run," about an old, washed-up man dreaming of the glory of his youth. He was 35. People lost their teeth early. If you graduated from high school, you were unusual. The number one employer of people was the farm, followed by domestic service.
I have a photo of my grandmother taken in the 30's. Her house is a one-room adobe shack with a dirt floor, no inside water, not inside toilet. She's already bent from carrying wood and hauling water. And these were not people who considered themselves poor. They were, but didn't consider themselves so. My grandfather had gone to college.
If you were a woman, your husband could beat you with impunity. If you were a child, your mother could whip you till your back was bloody. Your teacher could belt you with a paddle. If you were a citizen, you could be arrested and beaten. If you were African-American or (where I lived, Hispanic), you had almost no rights at all.
If you went to war, many of you died. The death toll from World War I and II is staggering. I believe the death toll for WWII is something around 18 million.
To be sure, we have our problems today. But what are they? Gangs. Yes, we hear a lot about gangs, but most of what I read in the local paper is gangbangers killing each other. Which is okay with me. We have drugs. To me that's just evolution in action. We have wars. How many have been killed in Afghanistan? Five thousand? About two months' highway death toll. We have cancer. A disease of older people. We have HIV and AIDS. Compared with the flu epidemic of 1913 (Was it?) it's nothing.
Naturally, we can do better. And we should do better. But in fact, we are doing better.