From a quick look at today’s popular entertainments or the daily news as reported on TV, it is easy to conclude that the human race is on the skids.
But if you look beyond the headlines, the sound bites, and the graphic images, you will see a different world — and a far better one. Consider the following:
(1) The talks underway with North Korea hold real promise of an end to a nuclear standoff and a conclusion to the Korean War.
(Source: Uri Friedman, writing in the Atlantic, June 19, 2018; www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/trump-kim-korea-success/563012/).
(2) There is less poverty in the world than at any time in the past.
(3) More people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.
(4) Old biases are breaking down, and race, sex and ethnic differences mean less today.
(“The Costs of Inequality: Across Harvard, Efforts to Improve Lives,” by Liz Mineo, Harvard Gazette; news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/03/the-costs-of-inequality-across-harvard-efforts-to-improve-lives/).
(5) Science is making progress in nearly every field, from medicine to food production to space exploration.
(“How science transformed the world in 100 years,” Prof. Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president, U.K. Royal Society; www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41698375).
(6) Education levels are higher in many countries, and opportunities to learn are multiplying every day.
(7) Also, in an encouraging development regarding control of climate warming, 179 of the 197 nations that tentatively agreed to last year’s Paris Accords on Climate Change have officially ratified the agreement, spurred on by leadership from prominent individuals such as former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Too often our eyes seem shut to the evidence that the world is slowly but surely emerging from a contentious, bloody and cruel past. But for assurance, we need only to look back at our forebears.
Yet why should we always look on the bad side? It’s time to face the fact that optimism is simply more productive than pessimism. And proposing a realistic assessment of current world conditions that acknowledges the progress we have made should only encourage us to keep working hard to make that world better and safer for all.
The foundations are there to build on: Think spiritually. Practice thinking highly of the other guy. The other color. The other sex. The other nation.
Of course, I can just hear my colleagues and friends saying, “Oh, John, come on, it’s the worst it’s ever been.” But I say it isn’t. Consider the many past crises we have overcome: World wars. Epidemics. Natural disasters. Slavery. Religious intolerance.
Yes, grave dangers still persist, but it is time for all to count our blessings and nurture hope.
There is a whole world out there to enjoy and appreciate. If we demand it of them, even the profit-and-ratings-obsessed producers of today’s entertainment and news shows will give us a more fully balanced view of world conditions and events.
This piece began in pessimism and ends in optimism. Yes, optimism. I’ll take it. Won’t you join me in taking a more upbeat look at the world?
John Heritage is a former reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune and later was legislative director to former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (now deceased). Vira Hong and Michelle Mirpour provided assistance on this article.