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17 september 2017, another chance to get it right

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

I've always been a glass half-full person, as well as someone seemingly keeping his head when all around are losing theirs and indeed (I'd like to think) all rudyard's "ifs". That wasn't easy with bombs blowing up buses in front of me in the 1990s (see 10 march 2012, here we go again), and isn't easy now with the open, liberal, humanistic world I've seen move forward so strongly in my lifetime seeming to take some sharp steps back with those bombs here now, trump, brexit and all. That the world is getting worse is a general perception that drives the west's current "anti" malaise: 81% of trump's supporters think life has grown worse in the past 50 years. Yet, there's no doubt at all that any rational state of the world address could only conclude that things are getting better. Global poverty has fallen by half in the last 20 years. Johan norberg (another inveterate positivist) relates how his great-great-great-great grandfather survived the swedish famines of 150 years ago, a time when sweden was poorer than sub-saharan africa is today. In 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in modern money. That had fallen to 37% by 1990 and today is less than 10%. As norberg relates, medical science, technology, nutrition and sanitation all played a role in this, and have resulted too in us being smarter humans. This resonates with sapiens, a summer read, which even on the bombs front contrasts the apparent danger we feel with a murder rate in hunter-gatherer societies about 500 times that of europe today. The average european is still ten times more likely to die falling down stairs than to be killed by a terrorist. Despite all inducements to the contrary then, I remain glass half full. Trump won't last forever, brexit probably won't happen at all and meanwhile we'll all do our best, and largely succeed, to live happy and healthy lives with our families and friends; a positive thought to go into a new year with (photo: neil libbert).