I’m an optimist. To be truthful, I’m a card carrying, corners-upturned-party, flag-waving, bottle-completely-full-to-overflowing, careerist optimist.
I don’t believe all the negative headlines; I grind my teeth at the ‘in-my-day’ brigade of rose-tintery; I say ‘Pah!’ to life’s naysayers; I spit in the eye of the curmudgeons and contrarians…
So when I read an article last week that pandered to my world view, of course I fully believed it. It was full of cracking ner-ner-na-ner-ner statistics, too.
Fr’instance in 1800, 85 percent of the world’s population lived on less than $2 a day (taking 2017 values for the $); in 1966 that had fallen to 50 percent; in 1997 it was 29 percent and in 2017, 9 percent. You note the value of the dollar is the same.
Of course, the world population is massively bigger so in absolute numbers we still have far too many people living below any reasonable subsistence level… still.
Another. In 1948, women, on average gave birth to 5 children; today it is, averaged worldwide, 2.5. Again in absolute terms the numbers are bigger and those 2.5 will live longer because of better education and health care worldwide but a point will come this century when the replacement rate worldwide is such that the world’s dwindling population will be the cause for concern not population growth.
But then I thought about the why’s and the wherefore’s and that’s where I have a sneaking feeling that being an Optimist isn’t necessarily the be all and end all.
See, child mortality might be the lowest ever but the reason is because people want something done to stop small children shuffling off their mortal coils before their first steps. Absolute poverty drops because it’s awful to contemplate. It’s those people who see the bad things and do something about them that have driven us forward. It’s not those looking at the world and saying ‘you know, things aren’t too bad’ that get things done.
Bill and Melissa Gates have done more to eradicate malaria than anyone else and why? Because they were upset by its impact and didn’t want to world where this was the norm. They didn’t say, ‘Hey, no malaria in the US so that’s alright then’.
Now, even as a sunny-side up personality, I try and do my bit for those who aren’t so fortunate, I am conscious that it is often those who feel pissed off at life’s unfairness who move the world forward. Pessimism has it’s place, if harnessed to improvement.
So to my friends and fellow humans out there who still read the Daily Gloom and believe it, I’m happy for you to wallow in your misery, just as long as you also do your best to ensure it’s not a self fulfilling prophesy.
As Flanders and Swann had it, we can’t all be honeysuckle – there has to be bindweed too and those two can intertwine to mutual benefit.