For all of you smiling under a warm spring sun today, enjoying the blooming of blossoms and the greening of grass, here’s an extra happiness injection: it’s getting better. What is it? Life. This story from Vox is something that I have sat on until happier times thawed from winter.
Vox, one of the best explainer journalism sites out there,* put together 26 charts showing how things are getting better. And these things are not just minor stuff, we’re talking the big important stuff like life expectancy, poverty, hunger, child labor, violence, disease, war, democracy, and so on.
We often don’t like to believe that things have improved. I know, a number of you are stricken by “but what about” thoughts. What about income inequality? What about the environment? What about the rise of <insert religious, political, sports antagonist here>?
Why can’t we accept good news? One reason may be exposure to the negative-slanted news, which has equated being informed with being pessimistic. Or maybe our own lives have declined, and it’s easier to believe that misery has company.
Age plays a role in our pessimism too. I think it has something to do with projecting our feelings about aging on to the world around us. How can ‘things’ be better if you are feeling or performing worse, right? Or maybe it is a reaction to a sense that the world we grew up with and are comfortable with is passing away, and the new-fangled things replacing it are unfamiliar and unwanted. It’s rare that you see a young person complain that the world is getting worse. It’s just as rare that you’ll come across a pack of seniors talking about how much better the world is.
Western culture also plays a role. Western civilization has been obsessed with its own collapse for a solid millenia or so. Disaster and a new dark ages is right around the corner. The naysayers causes keep changing (the Reformation, smallpox, Turks, the enlightenment, abolition of slavery, industrialization, democracy, women’s suffrage, racial integration, religious tolerance, gay marriage, etc.) but they keep on getting it wrong.
So the next time you see a bunch of seniors moaning about rising crime rates, and all these wars, and poverty, go running by and yell ‘everything is awesome!’ Because it’s not only hopeful, it’s true as well.
*I should pen an Ode to Vox. Ezra Klein’s site is full of interesting pieces that explain and provide context around stuff that gets dropped into the news like a three-legged dog who can do calculus. Most news sites regurgitate headlines. Some will tack on a snooty op-ed piece that declares what it all means, loaded with droll analogies and dog-whistles to intellectuals with wine preferences and subscriptions to The Atlantic. Others will just feed in the latest developments as new ammunition to fire the same old shitshells in a continuing political or cultural war online. Vox just digs deeper. Vox is my 27th sign that things are getting increasingly awesomer.