Current Events & Trends
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Current Events & Trends: January/February 2020
Worldwide mass protests at historic level
Mass protests are growing worse. An increasing amount of people are taking to the streets, more than ever before.
Journalists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub break down our “new era of global unrest” in The New York Times’ newsletter The Interpreter:
“It’s not your imagination, and the last few months are not an outlier: Mass protests are on the rise globally. They’ve been growing more common, year over year, since the end of World War II, now reaching an unprecedented level of frequency . . . The world is changing in ways that make people likelier to seek sweeping political change by taking to the streets” (“The Global Protest Wave, Explained,” Oct. 25, 2019, emphasis added).
The British newsmagazine The Economist also reported on the trend:
“For anyone trying to follow protest movements around the world it is hard to keep up. Large anti-government demonstrations, some peaceful and some not, have taken place in recent weeks in places on every continent: Algeria, Bolivia, Britain, Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and more. On November 1st Pakistan joined the ever-lengthening roll as tens of thousands of protesters converged on the capital, Islamabad, to demand that the prime minister, Imran Khan, stand down within 48 hours.
“Probably not since the wave of ‘people power’ movements swept Asian and east European countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s has the world experienced such a simultaneous outpouring of popular anger on the streets” (“Why Are So Many Countries Witnessing Mass Protests?” Nov. 4, 2019).
People are protesting for many reasons, but one of the main ones is economics. Most people are just scraping by to make a living; when gas or food prices go up significantly, it has a big impact on their families’ bottom line. Other economic factors are tax hikes, cost of living increases or “unfair” laws or regulations.
With a shocking rise in authoritarianism, people increasingly see their freedoms as being under attack from centralized, dictatorial governments.
But the findings also reveal that the protests are not really working. The Interpreter piece refers to a trend reversal that is bad news for anyone relying on protests to bring change:
“Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change got it—a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s. In the mid-2000s, that trend suddenly reversed. Worldwide, protesters’ success rate has since plummeted to only 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist who called the decline ‘staggering.’ ‘Something has really shifted,’ Ms. Chenoweth, who studies civil unrest, told us” (ibid.).
The authors give four reasons protests are not as successful as before: (1) democracy is on the decline; (2) social media “makes protests likelier to start, likelier to balloon in size and likelier to fail”; (3) social polarization is increasing; and (4) authoritarians are honing their craft.
The piece closed with this summary: “Protest movements don’t reliably achieve rapid and transformative political change in the ways that they used to . . . So while this may look like the era of people power, it is maybe more accurate to describe it as an era of angry frustration.”
The Bible reveals where all of this is ultimately headed. Amazing prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation and Jesus Christ’s prophecy given on the Mt. of Olives show that geopolitical trends of the end time will culminate in large dictatorial power blocs forming with unprecedented levels of control over the masses. To learn more, read our free study guide The Book of Revelation Unveiled (Sources: The New York Times; The Economist).
Plague of brutal shootings continues
The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
The word “brutal” is perhaps easily overlooked in this long list of sinful attitudes and behavior. The Greek word is also translated “savage.”
The world we live in is becoming more brutal everyday. In the Western world people are obsessed with brutality. It’s a main focus of entertainment. We watch violent movies, play video games that simulate warfare and then come home to the evening news that recaps the local shootings that happened in the last 24 hours. People have become increasingly comfortable with the brutality around them.
On Nov. 14 there was another school shooting, this one in Santa Clarita, Calif. The gunman killed two and injured three before turning the gun on himself. Then just a few days later “four men were killed and six others were wounded at a home in Fresno, Calif., on Sunday [Nov. 17] when suspects opened fire on a backyard football watch party” (“Fresno Shooting Leaves Four Partygoers Dead, Six Wounded,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2019).
We hear about such things in the news and then go about our day because that’s just the way things are now. We ought to recognize that something is very wrong with our society, and that something needs to change. But rather than addressing the real issue, this topic has been politicized, with blame misplaced.
The fact is, we live in a brutal world. That is the issue. The expansion of gun control laws that many call for will not solve this problem.
More people will die whether guns are more regulated or not. The fact of the matter is that we live in an era that is becoming more savage. This is what was foretold in the pages of your Bible. This is what the world will look like until Jesus Christ returns to establish a Kingdom of true peace. Every day we pray for that Kingdom to come! (Source: The Wall Street Journal.)
Study finds quality beats quantity in friendships
Are you trying to collect as many friends as possible in the hopes that you will be better connected or have more meaningful relationships? Or what about collecting as many Facebook “friends” as possible? A fascinating new study published in the journal Psychology and Aging shows that when it comes to friendships for older adults, less may be more. The quality of your connections matters more than how many you have. In other words, two really good friends are better than 100 acquaintances.
An article about the study reports: “Researchers from the University of Leeds conclude that well-being is more closely related to how people feel about their friends than their overall number of friends.
“The study sought to compare the friendships and social circles of younger and older adults. Since younger adults are more likely to connect with friends, family members, and acquaintances using online social networks, they tend to have contact with a wider circle of friends . . . While older adults may have generally fewer friends, they also tend to be closer with those friends and interact with them on a face-to-face basis more frequently. According to researchers, when it comes to friendship-induced feelings of well-being, that makes all the difference.
“‘Stereotypes of aging tend to paint older adults in many cultures as sad and lonely,’ says lead author Dr. Wandi Bruine de Bruin in a release by the American Psychological Association. ‘But the research shows that older adults’ smaller networks didn’t undermine social satisfaction and well-being. In fact, older adults tend to report better well-being than younger adults’” (Ben Renner, “For Older Adults, It’s the Quality of Friendships, Not Quantity, That Improves Well-Being,” StudyFinds.org, Nov. 16, 2019).
The article concludes with further reason to focus on connecting more deeply with those you already know instead of trying to seek out new friendships: “Only the reported number of close friendships was found to be significantly associated with social satisfaction and well-being . . . This positive association between close friends and well-being didn’t change in different age groups, suggesting that close friendships are important to overall well-being and social satisfaction throughout one’s life.” (Source: StudyFinds.org.)
CDC director believes the post-antibiotic era is here
On Nov. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a troubling new report about antibiotic-resistant bacteria titled “Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States, 2019.”
The foreword, by CDC Director Robert Redfield, is especially urgent about not only the future danger of antibiotic-resistant infections, but the present reality revealed by the study. “Stop referring to a coming post-antibiotic era—it’s already here,” Redfield writes. He points out that “antibiotic resistance has been found in every U.S. state and in every country across the globe. There is no safe place from antibiotic resistance.”
Penicillin was the first modern antibiotic, discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Put into medical use beginning in 1942, its efficacy against bacterial infections was an unprecedented triumph of science and even hailed as a modern miracle. But as Redfield laments: “You and I are living in a time when some miracle drugs no longer perform miracles and families are being ripped apart by a microscopic enemy.”
Today several types of resistant bacteria are not affected by even the most cutting-edge antibiotics the medical community can muster. The report estimated that there are more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States each year, killing more than 35,000 people.
The report includes a plan for more stringent controls of antibiotic use to hold out against the ongoing problem. Redfield states, “These actions are protecting us today and will continue to protect us, our families, and our nation from a threat that will never stop” (emphasis added). There is little hope in this vision of the future. At best Redfield sees a never-ending fight for survival against devastating, merciless and unseen enemies.
Thankfully, the Bible describes a future when our all-powerful God will take control and put an end to human suffering. That does not mean simply stepping in to instantly heal every disease. Rather, it starts by establishing a never-ending Kingdom under which mankind will learn the right way to live and be blessed abundantly.
As humanity finally learns to obey its Creator, God will eradicate disease from the earth, fulfilling in even greater measure the words spoken to ancient Israel: “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight . . . I will put none of the diseases on you [that defiance of God had brought on others] . . . For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
Ultimately, God’s plan is to transform the world—all who will obey and submit to Him—into a new creation, where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4). The “microscopic enemy” Redfield refers to—antibiotic- resistant bacterial infection—is just one of the many agents of death, which Paul described as the “last enemy that will be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26). That wonderful future with no need for antibiotics will be the true “post-antibiotic era”! (Source: CDC.gov.)