Why the World doesn't suck
“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days, than a bad memory.” – Franklin Pierce Adams
Often found in discussions with ordinary people is a pessimistic outlook on global affairs and humanity. How many times have you heard on the radio or the television the passing comment “with everything going on in the world” or something to that effect, implying that we are currently in an especially oppressive, regressive or unstable epoch? As Australians we see foreign news dominated by upheaval in the middle east, protests in the United States and missile testing in North Korea. It’s often used as the rationale for allegedly benevolent public policy, whereby to restore balance and order we only have to be kinder either to each other, or the planet.
I saw a video recently where the poignant political insight was that we live in a consumeristic society devoid of any understanding of how easily the plight of those living in abject poverty could be solved, if only we redirect our funds.
We are apart of “a consumer system which makes the rich richer, and leaves the poor behind.” Whilst I support ThankYou’s goal, and will continue to buy their product, their understanding of how wealth & well-being is created, painting it as a zero-sum game, is confused. The human race was borne into poverty. Poverty is the rule not the exception. The correct question is “how do people become rich.” You could easily make the case that we have never lived in a more consumeristic world, yet we also live in a world which has the lowest proportion of individuals living in abject poverty ever seen.
Consumers and consumption In general is not the enemy, but the ultimate companion for dissipating abject poverty and making progress. Had China eased trade restrictions as they did in the 1980’s & 1990’s, only to have people buying the same products and in the same quantities, there is no feasible way to have accounted for the more than 850 million Chinese lifted out of poverty since. Botswana, at one point in the 1950’s the second poorest nation in the world, is the fourth richest in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020. Same concept. The story is extraordinarily similar for Scotland, Singapore, India and almost every developed or developing nationn you can think of, all with varying endowments of natural resources, geographical and cultural handicaps. The uniting feature is the union between freedom of exchange & the acquisition of material wealth (consumerism). There is not a single rich country in the world that is not built on consumption.
The more pressing point however, is that historically speaking, the Planet, and it’s people, have never been better. There’s a common thread of guilt, especially when it comes to greed, avarice and consumption, which runs across the majority of developed Western Nations, and which in every circumstance is counter-productive. The media would have you believe on an ever accelerating decline into anarchy. The very fact we are aware of events in other countries shows unequivocally, that we are not.
As Stephen Pinker points out, the question of whether the world is getting better or worse is actually a scientific one, with an objective answer. Whilst our access to news and sensationalised headlines may make us feel that we are on the edge of a cliff, the truth is that we are not.
Ultimately, all widely-agreed upon aspects of Human Progress can be quantified. With these being, Life expectancy, health, sustenance, freedom, safety, knowledge, leisure, happiness, peace & prosperity.
A couple of quick facts to lessen the attractiveness of one of those Tide Pods as a quick breakfast.
- Global Homicide Rates Have Never been lower
- The proportion of Individuals who die at war continues to decline
- Number of people living in extreme poverty continues to decline
- Life expectancy Globally – Speaks for itself.
The rest is as you would expect, continuing to improve.
Whilst all of these things are absolutely fantastic, we also have a concerning trend in the increase in Mental illness, especially young people. I won’t pretend to have a quantifiable answer which can solve the issue, however, as a young person I remember feeling that the World was falling apart and that it was controlled by greedy, emotionless men who serve no interest but their own. Doubtless it would be helpful for the Human success story, not just that of environmental rape and plunder, to be at least spoken with the intensity of pundits for the latter.
Things have never been better for humanity. Although you may hear international crisis’ on the news, in an almost unrelenting fashion, the advances which bring us the news in the first place, that we are actually able to hear in real time, developments occurring on the other side of the planet, is testament to how materially better off we are than even 20-30 years ago, let alone 100 or 1,000.
Stay wise my friends, but more importantly, be optimistic.