Optimism In The Face Of Current Reality
Let’s start with an awesome dog taking himself sledding.
Now, let’s move on to Bill Gates opening essay in this week’s Time Magazine (he’s their first ever guest editor) titled Some good news, for once. It’s short and powerful.
He starts out with context.
“Reading the news today does not exactly leave you feeling optimistic. Hurricanes in the Americas. Horrific mass shootings. Global tensions over nuclear arms, crisis in Myanmar, bloody civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Your heart breaks for every person who is touched by these tragedies. Even for those of us lucky enough not to be directly affected, it may feel like the world is falling apart.”
And then perspective.
“But these events—as awful as they are—have happened in the context of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting better. This is not some naively optimistic view; it’s backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter-century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child.”
He creates more perspective but quickly gets to the punchline.
“So why does it feel like the world is in decline? I think it is partly the nature of news coverage. Bad news arrives as drama, while good news is incremental—and not usually deemed newsworthy. A video of a building on fire generates lots of views, but not many people would click on the headline “Fewer buildings burned down this year.” It’s human nature to zero in on threats: evolution wired us to worry about the animals that want to eat us.”
But this line nailed it for me.
“There’s also a growing gap between the bad things that still happen and our tolerance of those things. Over the centuries, violence has declined dramatically, as has our willingness to accept it. But because the improvements don’t keep pace with our expectations, it can seem like things are getting worse.”
For the past week, Amy and I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War. We finished Episode 8: The History of the World last night, and as the credits rolled and CSNY’s song Ohio played, I said to Amy, “The US and the world was unbelievably fucked up in 1970. I was five and I don’t remember anything. It’s helpful perspective on today.”
I was born optimistic and always have been. I’m going to stay optimistic about our country, our society, and our world. And I’m going to keep working hard on the things I think matter.
And yes, I’m going to read Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House tomorrow.