Friday, April 14, 2017

Ignore the Media Hype: The World is a Better and Safer Place

If you simply watched cable news over the past few weeks, you would think that the world is going to hell quite quickly: Sarin gas and retaliatory bombings in Syria, nuclear weapons in North Korea, and the mother of all bombs dropped on ISIS in Afghanistan.  When you add to this, increasing bad relations with Russia, and China's aggressiveness in the South China Sea, it seems like the world is becoming a dark place.

As this article in the Washington Post notes, however, quite the opposite is true.  While very bad things happen in the world everyday, by almost every measure, the world is actually a far better place than it has been in its history.  The human race is healthier, richer and more peaceful than anytime in its history.

And here are some highlights:

The number of humans living in extreme poverty has dropped dramatically in the last few decades.  Over the last 30 years, the percentage of humans living in extreme poverty has dropped fro over 50% to under 17%.  And this is not the only economic measure that has gotten better. Child labor has dropped by more than 50% in the last 16 years alone.  World literacy rates are rapidly increasing and we are actually approaching 100%.  Violent crime in down in most areas of the world.  Life expectancy is increasing at a dramatic rate in the developing world, and infant mortality is dropping fast.  And the percentage of people living in democracies is far higher today than it was even two decades ago.

But perhaps the biggest story is that despite the daily headlines about war and terrorism, the world today is actually far more peaceful than it has ever been in its history.  Yes, there are conflicts across the world, but they are less intense, and far more limited than in other times in our history.  Heck, even if you focus only on terrorism, your chances of being a victim of terrorism was higher in the 1970's than it is today.

If you want still more data, you can find it here,  here and here.

President Obama made the observation that if you were allowed to choose which period of history you would live in, but were not told your nationality or gender, you would be crazy not to choose today.

These facts raise several important questions.  First, if the world is such a better place, why do most of us feel that the world is actually a worse place.  There are several explanations.  First, the pace of progress has been most evident in the developing world, with many in countries like the U.S. feeling that things are getting worse and not better.  To some extent this is true.  Moreover, when we are bombarded by images of horrific events and acts of violence, it is hard to put these events in the broader context.

Second, even if the world is a safer place today than in the past, will this continue to be the case in the future.  With a rising China, an assertive Russia, and a barbaric ISIS, can we really be assured that the trend lines will continue.  This, I think, is the real question.  I, however, remain an optimist.  While stupid decisions by arrogant leaders can always lead to war, the trend has occurred because of a complicated set of reasons.  Most fundamentally, most nations now realize that war seldom results in the achievement of political aims, international institutions restrain the use of force, and attitudes towards war have dramatically change over the years

We need to be vigilant to insure that progress will continue, but we need as well to avoid being discouraged and disheartened by the headlines.  The world is a much better place than it was even 20 years ago. Our job is to make sure we continue to make progress.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that interesting post , the issue is much more complex of course , one needs to examine also human rights state in the world ( not only classic armed conflict , but also internal or national instability ) .One needs also to check , not only poverty in absolute terms , but , in relative terms , means : distribution of wealth and the gap between rich and poor populations in light of growing standard of living of course . But :

    The respectable author of the post , has raised( justifiably ) a very good question :

    " These facts raise several important questions. First, if the world is such a better place, why do most of us feel that the world is actually a worse place "

    End of quotation :

    The most important answer lies in the psychological domain . This is because , whatever are the figures , whatever are the statistics , humanity it seems and it is perceived so indeed , hasn't learned really the lesson !! The lesson of second world war . After that war , and the establishment of the UN , as peacemaker and peace caring , many felt that maybe , the human being , after peaks of horrors , has learned his lesson , and the world would become really more rational place to live in . Yet , the answer has become conclusive :

    No way whatsoever , the humankind has no remedy !! Something deep and fundamental is flawed in the nature of the human being, something embodied in his D.N.A that over and over, causes him to express the beast in him, the predator in him . No cure , no remedy finally !! Horrors continue in Africa , horror in biblical dimensions , women are oppressed in the Muslim world and south east Asia and elsewhere , dictatorships yet exist , endless items !!

    So, the very fact that it does continue, let alone while reaching new peaks with the IS, leads clearly many persons to the conclusion, that our nature is deeply infected!! While remedy and cure , are not yet available it seems .
    The beast , is the same old one !! only figures vary !!