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Is Life for Us Better Than It Was for Our Forefathers?

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Is Life for Us Better Than It Was for Our Forefathers?

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IS LIFE FOR US BETTER THAN IT WAS FOR OUR FOREFATHERS?

To try to answer this question, we had better go back in thought about two hundred years, say to about the middle of the 18th century; that is, before the great changes began that have made the modern world what it is today. Let us see what life was for our forefathers in those days. To get a picture of their lives, we must cut out many of the things which are so familiar and necessary to us today that we wonder how men could ever have got on without them. Take travel, for instance. In the time of our forefathers, there were no railways on steamships or airplanes, no bicycles or motor-cars, or even good roads. They travelled slowly on horseback or in carts and carriages, and sailing ships. There was no postal system, so letters were rare and costly; no telegraph, no telephone, no wireless or broadcasting. Nearly all goods were hand-made, as there was no steam-driven machinery to manufacture multitudes of cheap goods. Houses were lit by candles or lamps, for there was no electric light or gas. Of medical science, there was little or nothing, and public sanitation was unknown. In consequence, dirt and disease were in rife in village and town. There were no fully equipped hospitals, no trained nurses, and few qualified doctors. As far as education was concerned, it was a privilege of the rich. Most of the poor could neither read nor write. Books were few and expensive. As to amusements, there were no cinemas and no gramophones. Life in those days must have been dull and slow. So far, then, the answer seems to be an emphatic affirmative. Surely with all these advantages, and many more that cannot even be mentioned, our life today must be incomparably better in every way than the life of our poor forefathers. No doubt, in comfort, convenience, interest, variety, general health, and well-being, we have the advantage. But is it really so? Are we really happier that our forefathers? I doubt it. In this mechanical...