Pains of the present

When looking at the past, scientists, historians, and philosophers ascertain that the human condition has included substantial pain. Significant suffering in the past was as a result of the basic aspects for survival, particularly hunger, plagues, and wars.

In ancient times, in the Middle Ages, and even until fairly recently, hunger has been a great scourge on humanity. Any adverse weather conditions, such as prolonged droughts or floods, devastated entire crops and millions of people died for want of food. With scientific advances involving agriculture, soil preparation, fertilizers, and pesticides associated with climate prediction, today, in overall numbers, we are dying more due to eating too much than because of the lack of food. In 2010, a WHO survey demonstrated that hunger and malnutrition combined killed about 1 million people, while obesity killed 3 million. We know that there are still pockets of hunger in some countries. However, this derives more from political reasons, the logistical incompetence to deliver food to the neediest populations, the inadequate distribution of income, and corruption, but not the lack of capability to produce the food.

In turn, the Black Death in the fourteenth century killed 1/3 of the Eurasian population. Smallpox in the sixteenth century, and the Spanish flu in 1918, created a dramatic scenario of the desperation of mothers and families who saw their children and relatives die without any possibility of help. The scientific discoveries linked to the health area, the comprehension, as evidenced by science, of the microscopic beings and the diseases caused by them, made vaccines possible and put a stop to this suffering. The scientific development alleviated the physical suffering of millions of people. 

Nowadays, the scourges are different and they clamor for new answers in science and in education. 

We are experiencing a crisis of well-being. According to the WHO/2015 research, there are 322 million depressed people in the world and the same number suffering from anxiety. This reality of psychological illnesses is responsible for generalized disabilities that impair the personal, social and professional life. Every year, over 800,000 people take their own life and this is considered the second largest cause of death for young persons between 15 and 29 years old. Worldwide, half a million people die each year as victims of violence. Within families, behind closed doors, many children, women and the elderly suffer ill-treatment. The abusive use of power subdues women and also sexually exploits boys and girls, who are maimed psychologically. In the streets, whether covered by the shadows of the night or at high noon, juvenile delinquency is spreading. From the occasional blues to the ominous actions of organized crime and drug trafficking, we live in a society with many violent deaths, with much fear and suffering. 

The material and technological progress has brought enchantment and tangible benefits to society, by reducing human difficulties, but it does not guarantee the subjective well-being, the dreamed of and so desired happiness of people. We are becoming aware that, together with progress, psychological suffering comes in its wake. Conflicts between couples, between parents and children, and the psychological pain revealed in the generalized subjective malaise, constitute the greatest challenge in the agenda of humanity for this century.


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