Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Put On a Happy Face!

"I have to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time" - The Beatles

Amid the doom and gloom of the daily news something inexplicable is happening in our world. Despite what you might think based on the onslaught of horrifying images of despicable human behaviour and the tragic consequences of one natural disaster after another, life on this shiny pale blue dot is getting better all the time. Yes, you read it right, life is getting better.

I like to think of myself as a glass half-full kind of guy. I prefer optimism, albiet skeptical optimism, over
cynicism and depreciation. Yet, I am human and can not always resist the forces of darkness and despair. Still, I am reminded daily that hopefulness and renewal are ever present in my own life. Just looking at where I came from it is almost unfathomable how far I've come personally and I know my experience is far from unique.

Last August I read a piece by George Melloan in the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page that I clipped and posted prominently in my office. It was entitled, "Forget the Nightly News; Life is getting Better". It serves as a reminder that I (we, us) fail to see the progress of mankind amid the sky is falling barkers all around us.

Speaking of the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics,
George writes: ... a sampling of the world's 6.3 billion people, some 10,000 of them, from 202 countries. Looking at their happy faces, I thought surely the state of our poor planet can't be as bad as one might gather from the daily diet of doom and gloom dished out by the press and TV.

It isn't. When you go behind the news and look at the a broad array of statistical measures of the state of the world, the clear message is that life is getting better, not worse, for most people. Religious fanatics and junk science get a lot of headlines, but that's only the static that accompanies the improving political, economic and social environment that surrounds all but a relative few of the world's people...

He's right, but don't expect the New York Times, Al Sharpton or Bill Maher to utter these revelations. Tragedy sells. Hatred sells. Violence sells. Most of all, victimology sells. So few people ever take the time to count their blessings (and thank the Lord) that it's no wonder the prevailing wisdom is that we are all going to hell in a handbasket. It's almost comical to try to put yourself back in time a mere 100 years ago when my grandmother was a little girl. No cars, no airplanes, no refrigerators, no central heating, no antibiotics - the list is endless. It's funny to hear my own children marvel at my childhood without VCR's, cable TV, computers, cell phones and Sony Playstations. Cars, I tell them, had cranks for the windows, which we kept open- because - only Cadillacs had air conditioning.

All of this is not to say that gadgets and consumerism are what makes life better, rather our ability to buy and have the time to use these gadgets is indicative of how much better daily life is. The doomers and the gloomers will quickly point out that the price we pay for these goodies of American leisure
is easily offset by what OUR consumerism is doing to the world. Oh, the poor environment, the stress on the planet's resources, the plight of third world slave labor. This doesn't even take into consideration the stressed out, over worked, under paid, day-in day-out drudgery of the average American who only "thinks" his life is better than his fathers. To this I can only say - when in the course of human history did a time exist when our lives were not consumed with drudgery and stress? I also say this - don't let the bastards get you down. Here, as with many aspects of our modern life we find cynical leftists bemoaning everything that hard work and perseverence has afforded those who do the hard work - the drudgery - and create wealth and well being for their own folk. Indeed, don't let the bastards get you down.

The same can be said of some of the far right-wingers too, the ones who find a gay conspiracy under every cartoon rock. We on the right have to face our own demons when they obscure those who genuinely believe in environmental protection, separation of religiosity and statism, or the well being of the downtrodden and try
not to paste everything as a scheme to get more tax money out of us. Yes, some social progress is a result of social programs that actually work.

Naysayers on the left or the right need not take my word for it, there have been books written that deal with the evidence conclusively, far better than my feeble attempt. There is Terry Anderson's "You Have to Admit it's getting Better" as he explores the state of the world's environment in relation to the growth free market economies. Then there is the book that opened my eyes to the folly of Kyoto and SUV hatred, "The Skeptical Envronmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg, a former greenpeace activist, set out to disprove
the late Julian Simon's ( an American economist) contention that the world's management of natural resources was getting better and as a result getting cheaper. After 3 years of research and much to his surprise and the dismay of his fellow greenies, Lomborg concluded that Simon was right. He found that in nearly every aspect of the human condition the state of the world was getting better. He did not stop being an environmentalist, not by any means, but he learned that opposing human and technological development was the worst possible thing for the environment. According to Mr. Lomborg Kyoto is a collossal waste of money and resources that could better be used to make a real difference in the lives of human beings the world over. Lomborg is now universally hated by the left - my advice to him is, Bjorn, don't let the bastards get you down!

I found this interesting tidbit while asking Google - LIFE

Is Life Getting Better?
Quality-of-life in modern society
Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
...the data suggest that societal evolution has worked out differently on the quality of human life, first negatively in the change from hunter-gatherer existence to agriculture and next positively in the recent transformation from agrarian to industrial society. Probably, we live now longer and happier than ever.

And this from Slate.com's Mickey Kaus
Isn't the real test whether life is getting better in America's "underclass" ghettos? Now there is powerful statistical evidence that this is in fact happening. Concentrated poverty (a bad thing, and one of the defining characteristics of the "underclass" as described by sociologist William Julius Wilson) has dropped dramatically in the U.S.--by almost a quarter--after doubling from 1970 to 1990.

I could on and on, Google had much to offer on the subject. The clear consensus was that everywhere, particularly since the fall of Soviet communism, life is getting better for most everyone on the planet. So, again, don't let the bastards get you down. Chin up, smile and smell the roses whenever you can!



Timothy Birdnow said...

Great post, Craig! I`m generally a ``glass is half empty`` kind of guy, but no one can deny that life is improving immensely. Materially, things are better than at any other time in history. Politically and socially, things are looking up as well. Even spiritually, we are starting to return from a nadir. Good times, indeed!

It`s good to read something positive and upbeat!