Sam Armytage: ‘We’ve never been as nasty as we are right now’
One quiet afternoon recently, I re-watched Gladiator, the movie that got Rusty his Oscar. I think this is one of the wonders of the modern age: At the click of a remote, you can stream all the old films.
This leads to a bit of reminiscing about the classics, and then a bit about the good old days when you could actually get on a plane and wander around Rome.
Although, to be fair, my daydream was more about shopping, throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain and feeding myself gelato, and less about being fed to a lion in the middle of the Colosseum.
But then I had a very smug thought: isn't it wonderful that we, as humans, have come so far in 2020? We're not so brutal. We're so civilised and clever these days. And we know better.
No more barbaric murders in the centre of Rome. No Crusades, stupid wars, unnecessary deaths or corrupt politicians. We care for our environment. There's more kindness and tolerance. More equality. Better outfits...
Um, yep! But, no.
I put it to you that in all the violent history of the human race, we've never been as nasty, greedy, intolerant and corrupt as we are right now. We can invent a service that brings a car to pick us up or food to your door in minutes, but we can't tolerate another person's political opinion.
And we'll send a message to a stranger's communication gadget simply so we can wish them ill.
We can put an ear on a mouse's back and a person on the moon but, almost daily, wars are being started because of (mainly male) egos. (Yes, I know Margaret Thatcher sent troops to the Falklands. So let's count her in.)
The medical advice they were given during the Spanish Flu 102 years ago is the exact same advice we're being given during this latest pandemic: Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay away from one another. We haven't come very far, have we?
I'm not bagging our doctors and scientists. Obviously there have been incredible advances. But much of the good old advice remains the same. Our grandmothers knew smaller portions and vegetables were good and sugar was bad - and their generation didn't have an obesity epidemic.
Heck, even the cavemen knew you had to exercise a bit. (Although many of them smoked and didn't wear seatbelts - our grandmothers, not the cavemen - so perhaps we're getting smarter about some things.)
Our parents told us "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But then Twitter came along. Can I remind you that some people believe the original Mad Max was set in 2021? Perhaps we haven't even seen the worst of post-apocalyptic dystopian action just yet.
As they say in the classics - well, in Gladiator: "At my signal, unleash hell." Just try not to do that bit too often.
Because a bit further along in the movie they say something along the lines of "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius... but Mel Gibson is due to arrive next year, so let's hope that calms things down a bit."
Samantha co-hosts Sunrise, 5.30am weekdays, on the Seven Network.
Originally published as Sam Armytage: 'We've never been as nasty as we are right now'