Vice recently interviewed Johan Norberg, author of “Progress,” a book highlighting the direction in which the world is actually going, in terms of things like poverty and mortality. When looking at statistics, his consensus was that the world has been on an upward trend. Basically, life expectancy is longer, exposure to sickness and violence has decreased, literacy rates are higher, and the like. This came as a shock, even to me. I’m guilty of seeing the world as rougher and harsher than it is. I tend to forget that the negatives about this planet can never outweigh the benefits of life, especially when humans’ lives have been enriched over the years.
Yes, we have an intense amount of progress to make. There are entire systems that we have to dismantle before oppressed groups of people can, as a whole, live their best lives. Still, this new report shows that we have come so far it’s astounding. The funny thing is that I think we knew that already, deep down. After all, it’s the present. It’s clear that there have never been as many human rights as there are now, nor as many efforts to combat the problems that we face as a global society. Yet, many people solely focus on the negative.
Now, I’m not saying we should never focus on the issues that need resolving. In fact, I think we should dedicate a large portion of our time to making life good for everyone, no matter how much work that takes, so that humanity can thrive for many more generations and progress toward a bright future can continue. But I wish that we had more will to not let the prominence of poverty, corruption, and oppression take such a toll on us. We may be living decently “happy” or “normal” lives, but I think there is a problem with our collective consciousness. As the world becomes more aware of all the problems that can be fixed, we get discouraged. We see the pain occurring around us—class divisions, oppression, war, and terrorism, at home and abroad—and we can’t let it go long enough to enjoy our position as humans.
As cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive. We get to experience human connection, and it’s been proven that now more and more people have the resources necessary to live full lives and connect with others. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, it is beautiful to connect with this world and its people. The love is spreading. Survival, and eventually happiness, is becoming more and more possible for people all over the world. People get to enjoy longer lives. More people can afford basic needs. Every minute, 100 people rise out of poverty. At the level of the “big picture”, things are better and they’re constantly improving.
Again, there’s so much we need to work on. The environment is in a crisis, and unless we fight that, one day there won’t be a planet for people to enjoy the freedoms that they are increasingly receiving. But I hope that we can work on this while simultaneously being comforted by the fact that things are getting better for people. This should in no way make us complacent, but it should make us confident that the work we are doing is worth it, and we should never stop making the progress that is absolutely possible.