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Do you think our life is better than it was for our forefathers?
To answer this question, we had better go back the period of the middle of the 18th century. It is the period before the great changes that have been done to shape the world as 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. 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 or steamships or aeroplanes, no bicycles or motor-cars, or even no good roads. They traveled slowly on horseback or in carts and carriages, and sailing ships. There was no postal system, so letters were rare and costly luxuries; 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, for there was no electric light. Of medical science there was little and public sanitation was unknown. In consequence dirt and disease were rife in village and town. There were no fully equipped hospitals, no trained nurses, but few qualified doctors. Most of the poor could neither read nor write, for education was the privilege of the rich. 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, the answer seems to be an emphatic affirmative. Surely with all these advantages of our modern life, the life today must be incomparably better in every way than that of our poor forefathers. No doubt, in comfort, convenience, interest, variety, general health and well-being, we are superior.
Are we, however, really happier than our forefathers? I doubt it. In this mechanical age, life is all noise and bustle, hurry and racket, roar and rush. There is a fever in our blood. We are restless and unsatisfied, ever and ever seeking for some new things. We have lost the quiet, and the sheer pleasures of the old days. And the sense of security has gone. There is fear in our hearts. The machines of our science have given us a threat to destroy us. Bombing aeroplanes and poison gases make war a terror. And war may be on us at any moment: that will destroy our civilization.
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