Friday, July 28, 2017

Get Over It

There is a perception, amongst some, that the world is going to hell in a handcart. A terrorist bomb goes off, the US dumps excess stock of cruise missiles in the Middle East, Putin does some sabre rattling and oh my God World War III is going to start! A tornado picks up a tractor in the US, a small town is flooded in the UK, climate activists issue another ‘it’s worse than we thought’ report and oh my God Earth is going to become Venus and we are all going to die! Corbyn got more votes than expected and Britain is going to turn into Venezuela! Students and opportunist thieves burn cars and break into shops in Hamburg and fascism is on the rise! Brexit will cause the economic collapse of the UK! We only have (select preference) days to save the NHS! The ice caps will all melt by 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 etc. and we’re all going to drown! While Trump is a fascist dictator!

It’s bullshit, mostly.

We like to join the dots and recognize patterns, even if they are not there. We like to tell stories. And the internet is perfect for these because more news is available and it is immediate. But you need to be selective if you want to put together a story. We are all addicted to confirmation bias. (I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I’m guilty of it in this post.) You fear Islam? Well it’s easy to find numerous stories of Islamic atrocities all around the world and put those together as the fall of Western civilization. You dislike Brexit? Plenty of stories of how bad it is sure to be from partisan news media. You dislike socialism or capitalism? Easy to cite their catalogues of failures. You’re into the modern version of original sin? Plenty of stuff out there from the Church of Environmentalism to confirm for you how you are destroying the planet.

No, we are not descending into chaos. Shit happens. Shit has been happening forever. Natural and human-caused disasters have not, I would suggest, increased, while the political madness of the past with its putsches, exterminations and stomping of jackboots is not on the rise, in fact has been steadily declining since the World Wars. A hundred years ago religious fanatics were killing people, there was always a war somewhere (in fact WW1), natural disasters and diseases were wiping people out … only what you heard about these things was limited to newspapers, usually sometime after the fact. For example, if a tsunami had washed up on Sri Lanka back then would we have even known about it? Probably – a few column inches on page three of the Times a month after it happened.

And there’s another aspect to all this: bad news sells and is propagated while good news gets lost in the noise. People like bad news, probably because it’s life-affirming for them: hey, this terrible shit is happening … elsewhere and to someone else.

The reality: we are living longer more comfortable lives – compared to people a 100 years ago we in the Western world live like kings. Global poverty and starvation are steadily declining. Medical advances are steadily ridding us of diseases. Mind-blowing technologies are rampant and radically changing the way we live.

Life is good. Get over it. 

1 comment:

Sue said...

Well said, that man!