December 17, 2015

The world is getting better. It’s just that no one believes it.

I was listening to CBC on my way somewhere on the weekend. They were airing the Munk Debates. The topic was this: “Be it resolved humankind’s best days lie ahead.” It was fascinating; especially the comments of a very distinguished scholar named Matt Ridley.

Professor Ridley pointed out that we live longer, are healthier, richer, safer, less warlike than any time before in human history. He wasn’t talking about Canada, or even the West; he was talking about the whole world. It doesn’t feel like it, though, does it? But it’s true. (Well, my Google search says it’s true. And it wasn’t challenged during the debate.) We don’t tend to think the world is getting better, particularly as we get older, apparently. As we age, we all tend to look back on a better imaginary past that didn’t exist, according to Prof. Ridley. 

Then he pointed out a second fact that was disturbing. When people are polled about how bad the world is, those who think it is bad and getting worse tend to also respond that this means they should hunker down and think only of themselves. But the world hasn’t gotten worse, it’s gotten better, but mostly only the young believe it. Yikes. 

Do you think it might work in reverse? That is, if we became more optimistic and saw the world as a better place, would we be more concerned about others? It feels true, and I see it every day at the Ottawa Humane Society. Optimism works. I see second chances in the face of hopelessness, the relief of suffering in the face of pain and the building of a compassionate and hopeful next generation. And from it, I see touching generosity and wholehearted commitment from our staff, our volunteers and our supporters. 

Merry Christmas everyone.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director