If you live in the Western world, and particularly if you watch the news, you probably weren’t expecting this:
It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.
To listen to politicians is to be given the opposite impression — of a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse. This, in a way, is the politicians’ job: to highlight problems and to try their best to offer solutions. But the great advances of mankind come about not from statesmen, but from ordinary people. Governments across the world appear stuck in what Michael Lind, on page 30, describes as an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
Take global poverty. In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This, too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too.
The doom-mongers will tell you that we cannot sustain worldwide economic growth without ruining our environment. But while the rich world’s economies grew by 6 per cent over the last seven years, fossil fuel consumption in those countries fell by 4 per cent. This remarkable (and, again, unreported) achievement has nothing to do with green taxes or wind-farms. It is down to consumer demand for more efficient cars and factories.
I dare you to not get happy watching this new video from Matt:
The Pyongyang ones really got to me.
If you haven’t watched his first one from 2008, it’s just as great:
Why do you care what other people think?
Why do you try to fit in?
Why does it matter how many friends you have on Facebook?
The greatest tragedy is a life spent worrying about the forced thoughts of the irresolute, or trying so hard to conform to the dogmas of a group that you lose your identity. You are the result of 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution. That’s enough. Don’t waste it on trivialities. Chasing recognition by groups of people who do not recognize this is utterly meaningless, and unbecoming of something so rare.
Concern yourself only with living a meaningful life. In doing so, you will meet a few people of like mind. A select few who think it more important to improve the lives of others, and to make the world a better place, than to worry about pathetic social customs. People with empathy, wisdom and courage; people who enjoy intellectual discourse, who care more about extending the frontier than their Twitter follower count.
They will be few and far apart, but together you will change the world.