Humanity is not going to hell in a hand basket. We have problems, crises, and dire threats that we must tackle, but once in a while, lift your head up from your phone/tablet/TV and be encouraged.
Steven Pinker tells us the long arc of human history bends away from war, towards commerce and expanding sympathy for others. In a more immediate timeframe, a New York Times columnist writes that 2017 was the best year ever.
We, naturally, focus on our own current problems. But consider the whole world:
I’m actually upbeat, because I’ve witnessed transformational change [in 2017]…. A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell. Nicholas Kristof
He cites statistics regarding illiteracy, extreme poverty, and childhood death rates (once, two-thirds of parents had a child die before age 5) all vastly improved in our lifetimes.
If that’s too far away for you, consider America in the 1950s:
the U.S. had segregation, polio and bans on interracial marriage, gay sex and birth control… it was a time of nuclear standoffs, of pea soup smog, of frequent wars, of stifling limits on women.
Nostalgia has always been attractive. Ancient Greeks wrote of a past Golden Age when a Golden Race of people enjoyed a perfect life. Hindu and Norse cultures have similar stories, and the Bible describes a succession of kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2) as degenerating from gold, to silver, bronze, iron, and finally to clay. Clay – that’s us.
It’s very human to yearn for a past that never was, or maybe for a time in our own lives when we were young, optimistic, and unburdened. But, as a famous wizard observed, “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
Take Kristof’s advice to heart: let our triumphs empower you to tackle the mortal threats we face. Let’s make 2018 the best year ever.