Pen & Globe

Time of Our Lives

Happy New Year to all! I hope you were able to ring in 2017 in style last night. Many, I know, were only too happy to leave 2016 behind. As long as I can remember, never have I heard so many people say “good riddance” to a calendar year.

Whether it was the brutal war in Syria or other violent acts all around the globe – including yet another bloody attack here in Istanbul early this morning! – or the death of our beloved idols – Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, and most recently Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher among them – or the installation of some curious characters in key positions of power – many of us couldn’t wait to turn the final page in our calendars and cram them into the nearest shredder.

All of this got me thinking: Are things today really that bad? Ever the optimist, embracing change like a warm sweater on a snowy day (like today!) and believing the answers to our problems will be found looking to the future in a rational way rather than clinging to fantasies of the past, I have my doubts. Apparently, I’m not alone.

Swedish author and historian Johan Norberg just published a book in which he argues convincingly that humanity today has reached its highest point ever. In Progress: Ten Reason to Look Forward to the Future, Norberg claims that in terms of life expectancy (up from 31 years in 1900 to 71 now), global literacy (up from 20% to 85% in the past century), or food, sanitation, poverty, violence, freedom, equality, or several other indicators our report card as human beings has never looked so good. Even bad news, such as terrorism, Norberg claims, is less now than it ever has been; our media is just a hell of lot better (or worse) at delivering it these days.

So, if you are able to step back for a second from your own situation to take a more global view, you will see how we are living longer, better, smarter, healthier, and wealthier lives. Not a bad thought to nurse our collective hangovers as we usher in another 365 days. And during those days, rather than complain, why not do something about those wars and other violent acts and all those curious characters, or even become an idol yourself?

To you and yours, let’s all make the best even better in 2017!

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