I am happy to report that this week my Afghan friend and I both received emails from the apartment house he had applied to. He has been approved as renter and I as guarantor. The family will move into a much better building only a few blocks away—hopefully mouse free. Humans one, AI zero. Happy ending!
I talked to three different leasing agents, wrote numerous, desperate emails, and finally wrote one of my outrage memos to management, with a few tongue-in-cheek sentences thrown in to get a chuckle or two. This strategy often works if you are talking to a human rather than a machine.
This happy ending raises the question: Are we humans basically good or basically bad? Another example of goodness is that this week someone dropped off my driver’s license at the front desk of the Kennedy-Warren, the apartment house where Embry and I live. We had attended a concert the previous evening at the Austrian Embassy where I had to show identification to get in and must have dropped it. Good heavens, how often does this happen?
The answer is probably a lot. I think about the almost 82 years I have been on this planet and conclude that the experience for me has been that good people far outnumber the bad, and that goodness prevails over evil much of the time.
Embry and I have traveled a lot over the years, visiting over 70 countries, and we have both spent several months living in a foreign country—France and Tanzania for Embry, Japan and Mexico for me. While our extensive travel and living abroad has had its challenges, at the end of each trip I have found myself coming down on the optimistic side: In every country you will find good people.
Not so fast, you might say. You and Embry are the lucky ones. You were born into loving families. Your parents were financially secure. You had opportunities to attend great schools, have great friends, and have lived in nice homes in nice neighborhoods. You were able to get good jobs and establish careers and never had to worry about where the next meal was coming from. You have a great family and enjoy good health. Face up to it: You got dealt a strong hand. Not that you deserved it, but that is not the case for a lot of people.
And you would be right. Lots of people get dealt weak hands. Poverty and inequality persist. Some families are dysfunctional. Suffering is also a fact of life for many. Racism is still with us. Poor health, depression, and conflicts with others affect many.
Plus, this fragile planet is in bad shape. We live in a time when it feels like the entire world may be up for grabs and could go up in flames. Nuclear weapons are now abundant and in the wrong hands. One mistake or miscalculation could set off a catastrophe beyond description. We are trashing the planet and paying the price for it as temperatures rise. Wildfires, floods, and rising sea levels are increasing every year. Scientists tell us we have only a decade or so to make necessary, difficult choices to avoid the worst outcomes of global warming. And think of the wars happening now—Russia versus Ukraine, Israel versus Gaza–where there is no end in sight. Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world and could even happen here.
The truth is we humans are both good and bad. And this is not only true for our species but for each of us as individuals. No one is perfect. We all have good days and bad. We all do foolish things and make mistakes. Most at one time or another face major personal challenges and disappointments. This is the human condition. Welcome to Planet Earth.
But still. The small victory for our Afghan friend is worth a shout, along with the return of my driver’s license, small victories, I suppose, compared to the many blessings I have received over the years. For this I give thanks to the mysterious force in the universe that we humans on Earth call “God.”