The thing about interesting times
… is that you don’t officially know they’re “interesting” until they’re over. Or possibly ever, depending on how your life intersects with the rest of whatever’s going on.
I have no doubt at all that the people who were around through both world wars considered their times excessively interesting, just as those who lived through the Great Depression did. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that every year of every decade qualifies as “interesting” to those who lived it, especially those who had the signal “honor” of being adults through it.
It’s really not so much a matter of a particular time period being more interesting than any other as of life not being any kind of orderly process like we’d all prefer – not least because humans are very much a storytelling critter. We use stories to impose order on what is fundamentally a chaotic process that we can’t do much about.
Of course there’s a strong desire – if not need – for the stories to make sense in the way life doesn’t. So of course people have a tendency to attribute things going badly to some kind of malicious conspiracy against them, and things going well to their efforts or skills. Usually the former isn’t part of it, of course, and the latter includes what a person’s doing as well as a healthy dose of luck.
And when there’s a whole lot of people all doing what they think is best for their lives, well, you get interesting times. It’s one of the arguments that nobody is ever going to win because when it comes down to it, what’s best for me isn’t what’s best for my neighbor and might be completely incomprehensible to someone else – and that’s just talking English-speaking people who have a more or less common cultural set of references.
It’s why top down planning fails when you try it for anything larger than a family – and why it’s usually kind of creaky at a family level, too (since most parents will share the decision making, and as the spawn get to be old enough to express preferences and sensible enough to take some responsibility, they’ll start to have their preferences considered in the decisions). It’s also why purely bottom up decision making is much messier, takes much longer, and usually ends up with a compromise.
There’s a saying I’ve heard (but don’t remember where it came from) that goes something like “the most effective form of government is a benevolent dictatorship – but it’s almost impossible to find one that starts that way, and probably is impossible for it to stay benevolent”. Messy and frustrating as it is, the whole process of elections and voting and representative democracy or republic is pretty much the best option long or short term.
It’s definitely the only option that’s proven to consistently generate and keep most people who live in one healthy, happy, and free. Well, mostly.
What it doesn’t do – ever – is give everyone the quiet and above all predictable life that most people I’ve known really want. It all comes down to human nature again – the number of times I’ve found myself retreating from otherwise intelligent, sensible people who just want someone in authority to tell them what they should be doing is, in all honesty, terrifying.
As Pratchett pointed out in (I think) Pyramids, a lot of people would prefer predictable slavery with a decent owner. And preferably, two weeks vacation (running away from the owner time), three guaranteed meals a day (one with named meat), and someone else having to pay the medical bills.
I can’t say I’m not somewhat attracted… except that there’s no guarantee that any such arrangement will stay that way, not when power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No matter the attraction of the predictable safety of someone else looking after me, I’d rather stick with interesting, even with the drawbacks.