Fascism is on the rise, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, global warming is worsening, gun violence in the United States shows no signs of abating, homelessness in Ireland is increasing, and Britain seems set to destroy itself through Brexit.
What a great time to be alive.
If you listen to the radio or watch the news, the outlook for our immediate future seems bleak. Something seems to be going wrong, wherever and whenever you look. In fact, tragedy seems so rife that we barely have time to focus on one issue before our attention is stolen by another. A few weeks ago a bridge in Genoa collapsed, but you hear little about that now, because other, newer events have stolen the spotlight.
Things seem bleak, but believe it or not, they may actually be better now than historically. Sure, many people today are living with poverty as a reality or are living in a corrupt state or in a state that collapsed into violence. As a civilisation, we may be no wiser now than we were in the past. But it is undeniable that we have progressed immensely since then either way.
Somewhere between 20 million and 50 million people died because of the Spanish Flu in 1918. The outbreak of the Ebola Virus in West Africa claimed around 11,000 lives between 2013 and 2016, the Napoleonic Wars killed between 2.5 million and 3.5 million people and the Yugoslavia wars in the 90s killed roughly 140,000 people. Maybe it’s not fair to compare major events like the Spanish Flu and Napoleon’s conquests to the Ebola virus and the Yugoslav wars, but it is undeniable that those later events were major in the news when they were happening. I personally remember the Ebola virus being drummed up as a huge threat when it was relevant in 2016.
Sure, every life is precious and every death has an impact on someone. The fact of the matter, though, is that life is fragile, and people will always die or live in suffering. That doesn’t make it okay, but it doesn’t mean the world has gotten worse. In fact, things may just have gotten significantly better in the last couple of decades.
24-hour news and the constant demand for information makes it appear like the world is in a constant state of tragedy, because the simple fact of the matter is people want to read about tragedy. Good news simply isn’t as enticing as bad news. In an era where the demand on newspapers, news channels and news sites is for a constant stream of news, it’s much easier to focus on the tragedies than it is to look for the happy stories. The world hasn’t gotten worse, but we’ve gotten much better at finding the faults. So chin up. Everything may be awful, but it’s a great time to be alive.