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Optimist or pessimist?

September 20, 2018 by

‘Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 yesterday’, could be a news headline. If that same headline would have been used each and every day for the past 25 years it would still be true, so much has poverty been reduced. You can call that good news.

There are many more developments to be happy about. The world is about 100 times wealthier than 200 years ago, Steven Pinker writes in his book Enlightenment Now (2018). There has been enormous progress in medication, health care and sanitation that allows people to live longer, healthier lives. The world has become much more democratic, notwithstanding authoritarian states such as China, Turkey and Russia. In 45 out of 52 countries in the World Values Survey, happiness increased between 1981 and 2007. Education is available for a much larger number of children.

But the news is not only good. Wars are raging in Syria and Congo. Climate change remains an alarming problem. The oceans are full of plastic. Stress and anxiety are increasing worldwide, resulting in feelings of depression. Migrants in search of a new home find it difficult to find places that welcome them. Jobs are disappearing as a result of robotization and digitization; new jobs are emerging but not yet in the same amount. There is a large group of people with existential insecurity, leading a life of unstable labor and living. They feel they are bearing the burden of changes they haven’t asked for. For the first time since World War II children are doing less well than their parents did.

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will”, Italian writer Antonio Gramsci said. Both the optimist and pessimist views of the world are supported by facts. At the ELP Annual Leadership Conference the optimist side is represented by Christian Kromme while Guy Standing will explain what is wrong in the world. Are you optimistic or pessimistic when you think about the future?