Everyone on Earth is convinced that things have never been worse, and that we’re living in the end-times, condemned to live in caves 50 years from now while robot Terminators hunt us in the melted remains of what used to be the polar ice-caps. But here’s the thing: the world has actually never been better than it is right now.
Yes, as hard as it is to believe given the APOCALYPSE NOW tenor of the media, both professional and social, as a species we’re doing a hell of a lot better than we ever have. Here are six reasons why.
Crime is Falling
If you pay attention to the news, or just have a Facebook page for that matter, you’re probably convinced that crime is at an all-time high and that nothing short of Robocop will save use. Not true.
The American crime rate is currently at its lowest point since 1966, and the violent crime rate hasn’t been this low since 1970. In fact, the total crime rate is roughly half of what it was in 1990. There are lots of theories for why this true, everything from better law enforcement efforts to less lead in the atmosphere (no, really) but the reality is right there in the numbers: crime is at a 50 year low.
The Poverty Rate is the Lowest It’s Ever Been
The Global poverty rate has been cut in half since 1990. Almost 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty 25 years ago. Today, that number is less than a billion. That’s still too much, but the idea that things are getting worse for people instead of better is just flat-out wrong. At least generally. Some parts of the world have been slower to get their shit together (you know where) but on the whole, there are less starving, desperate people in the world.
In the US, the poverty rate has climbed a bit in the past several years, owing largely to the Global recession of 2008, but the poverty rate now – roughly 15% – is still less than the poverty rate of 1960, which was over 20%. In fact, 50 years ago, the poverty rate in the South was ridiculous, in some states around 50%. The poorest of those states today top out at roughly a 20% poverty rate today.
Look, it’s one thing to complain because you personally haven’t been making the sort of progress you were promised. And it’s easy to look around and see hardworking people struggling to get by. But what’s hard is to recognize that for much of human history, you had to be incredibly privileged to even be in that position. As recently as 50 years ago, half of the people in the South had no hope. They were dirt fucking poor, the American dream just a cruel joke. Is it still that way for some people? Yes, but not nearly as many, and I don’t think people truly comprehend that.
We’re More Peaceful
Wait… this can’t be true, can it? After all, we’re inundated with news of ISIS running wild, babies in Syria getting blown up and just about any and all horrors you can imagine. All of that is happening, and it sucks. It sucks bad, Beavis. But, as sick as it sounds, that is actually an improvement over virtually the entirety of human history.
Back in the day – I’m talking waaaaay back – the entire world was essentially Syria, run by fanatics and madmen who would destroy entire cities, murder their entire population and literally stack their bones so high they would rise above the city walls. I’m not exaggerating either. That’s exactly what Genghis Khan did to Baghdad, and that wasn’t even really out of the ordinary. People killed each other over anything and everything.
Fast forward a bit to the 1950s, when there were approximately six international wars per year going on, with around 250 people per million dying war-related deaths. Today, that number is around one war per year, and less than 10 people per million dying from war every year.
I know, I know, don’t tell some kid from Syria or Yemen that we’re doing better, but, well… we are. Human beings can be atrocious animals, just ugly fucking monsters. There are still far too many, but as hard as it might be to believe, there are less of them – much less – than there ever have been before.
We’re All Living Longer
I really don’t think you understand how historically illiterate most people are. I mean, they just don’t understand how epically shitty the world used to be. And perhaps nothing makes that clearer than the average life expectancy of the past relative to now.
In 1558, a person born in England could expect to live to the ripe old age of 22. 22! That was the life expectancy back then. That didn’t really change much over the next few hundred years. The average life expectancy never even cracked 50 until 1907. Today, it’s 81.
Look, that’s a shocking difference, and while it may not fit with the THIS IS THE END TIMES narrative everyone around you is busy pushing, it’s not something anyone can argue.
But that’s just for a first-world, “rich” society, you say? Well, even in Ethiopia, the average life expectancy has almost doubled in the last 60 years. In fact, there is nowhere on Earth where the life expectancy is less than 50. In 100 years, the advancements we’ve made globally, even in our poorest, most war-torn countries, are staggering. I mean, the life expectancy in Somalia today is higher than the highest life-expectancy of any country in the world 100 years ago. In this respect, anyway, even the most third world of third world countries is better off than the richest, most powerful countries were even in the early 20th century.
Science Marches On
Here’s the crux of it, really. A lot of those stats I just tossed out there, especially the ones about poverty and life-expectancy, are because of science, and science just keeps on working for us no matter how shitty we’re determined to be to each other.
Take hunger. Back in the 1970s, people were convinced that we’d all run out of food and be eating each other by the mid-80s. You can see that attitude reflected in old movies like Soylent Green. But it wasn’t just science-fiction. Scientists were predicting that shit too. That’s because everyone made the mistake of thinking that things would never change, they would never get better, and that we were just on a linear path to destruction. Sound familiar?
Well, then why aren’t we all eating each other today? (Occasional bath-salt related face-eating incidents aside.) It’s simple: science. Science has made remarkable advancements in areas such as agriculture and food-resource management in order to make sure that we’re all eatin’ good in the neighborhood.
Of course, the irony is that many of these advancements are treated by the ignorati (totally a word… no, don’t look it up) as the work of the devil. I’m talking, of course, about GMO’s and things like that. Half of you reading that probably just flinched a little even seeing that term: GMO. But why? It is because, deep down, we are still superstitious peasants afraid of science. We just want to call everyone and everything we don’t understand a witch.
“Genetically modified.” We can’t fucking stand that. It must be bad, right? Of course, it ignores that human beings have been genetically modifying food literally since we learned how to plant and harvest things. And it’s because we’ve kept on doing that, kept on reaching, kept on learning, that we’re not all eating each other today. Goddamn witch burners.
I haven’t even gotten into the medical advances, along with the technological advances that have kept us alive and made life less miserable, but they are so self-evident that I shouldn’t even need to, right? Right???
Information is Everywhere
Think about how amazing this is. You can find just about anything you want – a book, a movie, stats, fucking porn – within seconds. Your grandpa would have shit his pants in awed disbelief at this back in the day. And then he probably would have burned you as a witch.
But I’m serious. Really think about how incredible this is, and how absurd a gift it is compared to even 20 years ago. I mean, holy shit, bros, this is the sort of thing people used to only imagine in sci-fi, and we get to live it.
Of course, this phenomenon also plays a part in explaining why everyone is convinced things are so shitty now. Everything is so immediate, the entire world laid out in real-time before us, that we’re exposed to the shitty things that happen in a way that nobody else has before. It’s all about perspective, and that’s what we’re truly shitty at right now. We just haven’t adjusted yet to the fact that we can see it all, that very little is hidden, and that means that, yes, we’re going to see some wild shit that we never saw before.
But once you put it all in perspective and realize that what really gets us scared is the immediacy of it all, I think you’ll realize we’ve never had it better. I mean, come on. Remember the Genghis Khan anecdote from earlier? Shit, 60 million people died in World War II. Imagine either of those happening today. We couldn’t handle it. Not even close. The immediacy of it would tear us apart. But those things happened. Those things and many more, horrible things we can barely comprehend, and that’s because we’ve never really had to. It’s one thing to be aware of that horror, it’s quite another to see it happening in real time.
But it’s also that information overload that may save us, that makes us look the world in the face and confront all that evil shit because there’s nowhere for it to hide. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not just happening on the other side of the world. It’s happening on our TV screens and on our Twitter feeds. That horror, that disgust, that sense that the world is spinning out of control is what will help us save it, and it’s the real reason why we’re actually doing better than we ever have before: we care. That, and all the free porn.
Earth image by Shutterstock