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Originally posted by Byrd
Actually, HLW, you're thinking this is the worst of times simply because you don't really have a good understanding of how things were 100 or 200 or 500 years ago.
As a species, we're getting better.
90 years ago, orphans were sent to live with people who treated them as unpaid slaves (I know someone whose mother was an orphan.) Men could beat their animals OR their wives to death with few penalties (just say she was cheating.) People were left to starve because their skin was the wrong color.
150 years ago, children as young as 3 were sent to work in the fields, picking cotton and vegetables. They were beaten if they didn't fulfill their tasks. 10 and 12 year old girls were sold to be prostitutes. The only ones who could vote or hold property or political office (and the only ones who were consistantly educated) were white, wealthy males.
And the era of the Crusades... and the Inquisiton. Dear heavens, THERE was a horrible time! Sanitation was unknown. Ecological damage to the landscape was far greater (per person) than it is today. If you didn't agree with the religious doctrine, you were burned at the stake. You were born to a place in society. A serf would always be a serf. He could never be anything more. If the lord of the land liked your woman, he could take her. If he and his buddies wanted to hunt foxes all over your crops, he could. You had to tolerate it.
You were told who you could marry. If you loved someone else -- tough. Disease was caused by evil spirits. Foreigners were to be killed or conquered. If you were poor, you were sent to prison. Kings and emperors could and did keep boy children to pleasure them sexually. Women were locked away in harems (which might sound fun to the guys but resulted in assassinations, stress, deaths, and misery for the women. And lesbian love affairs.)
Deformed and unwanted children were taken out to the woods for the wolves to eat. Ditto old men and old women unless they were wealthy.
A ruler could insist that you worship him or her as a god. In fact, he could insist that you worship his pets as gods and bring them offerings. Incest among the royals was the norm.
Things are a *LOT* better now! Read up on history and the way the folks who weren't upper class white males were treated. It's an eye-opener.