Declinism: Is the World Getting Better or Worse?

One anthem of the older generation is how the youth of today are morally bankrupt, how the world has changed for the worse and how life was better back in their days. It looks like, with each passing day, something new comes up to remind us of how worse everything is getting. Global warming, war threats, political unrests, heat waves, natural disasters, well-planned genocides, unforeseen suicides, widespread homicides, poor healthcare, corrupt governments, stagnant education systems, rampant kidnapping, “debatable” rape cases and yeah, your best friend’s bad breath.

Everything on the news is telling you how things are going sideways. Is it? Mean world syndrome is a cognitive bias that makes people perceive the world to be more dangerous than it is. Did you experience some sunshine? Took a deep breath? Smiled? The world is not dangerous after all, is it? Nonetheless, there are a lot of dangerous people in the world. The average person walks by a murderer 36 times during their lifetime. You didn’t even notice they were murderers, did you? Some even smiled at you. Thinking about it is even creepier. That’s what the news does all the time.

News is always about something bad, someone dead, someway somehow. Imagine the news only being about the good stuff? Won’t it be amazing? Actually not. It is not the fault of any news agency to feed us bad news all the time. It is because of how the brain works. Studies have shown that the mind is negatively biased and thus, people pay more attention to bad news than good news. Trust me, bad news accounts for about 80% of the reason why we think the world is getting worse.

This is actually not a surprise to anyone but, anything you hear happening today had already been happening. Wars? Pandemics? Rapes? Killings? Collapsing systems? It is not that they are rampant today. It is just that you have a higher chance of hearing about it today. In times past, messengers had to travel long distances to send any news to neighbouring cities. Today, Twitter alone can tell me how North Korea is flexing their muscles on the rest of the world.

Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. 

Ecclesiastes 7:10

In other words, the world has pretty much been the same for a long time. There are just periodic abrupt changes for the good or bad, but things go back to the normal cycle of life; birthing, living, dying. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pretending that the world is any better than it is supposed to be. What I’m saying is that there are no “good old days”. The world is getting better at a similar rate of it getting worse. The possibilities are high for both extremes. When the world improves – for example, the divorce rate drastically reduces – unless you are pretty much concerned about it, you are most likely not going to hear about it.

Let me give you vivid examples of how the world has gotten better;

Global life expectancy has more than doubled in the past century, rising to an all-time high of 72. Back in the 17th century, people lived to be about 35 years max. 25 years, in the 13th century. Today, we say life begins at 40. In 1800, nearly half of all children died before the age of five, but today that figure has fallen to less than 4%. Due to high advancements in medical research and technology, each individual has learnt to take good care of themselves and go for medical treatment when sick instead of leaving it to the “god of health”. Don’t let anyone lie to you that the older generation used to live long. That’s only true because the younger generations are still young. Young people die since the beginning of time. It didn’t start today.

More wealth has been created in the last four decades than in all of human history before then. Almost everyone was poor when Jesus walked the earth. It was only royals and officials who had all the wealth. Just 200 years ago, 8 in 10 people still lived in extreme poverty. Today it’s fewer than 1 in 10. Not just that. As the second of the UN’s 17 SDGs, the chance to completely wipe out extreme poverty increases with each day. From my phone, I can donate to the UN to help feed poor families in deprived countries.

Download ShareTheMeal app on your smartphone today

War, disease and natural disasters now claim fewer lives than at any point in human history. Two centuries ago, 88% of the world’s population was illiterate; now only 10% of the world is. I don’t even want to delve into technology and how it has changed the ballgame for generations to come. An average smartphone user now has more information at their disposal than the US president had 50 years ago. Until man went to the moon, we didn’t know we were destroying the ozone layer. No one cared about anything like that until the 1970s. Today, sustainability is the talk of many industries seeking to leave the world better than we found it.

How about the COVID pandemic? When the world had a pandemic in the 14th century, years went by without anyone identifying the cause of the disease. The Black Death wiped out cities. People were left dead on the streets for months. Many saw it as a curse from the gods. When COVID arose, in about 4 months the whole world shut down for the pandemic, knew its name, its causes and ways of spreading. Under normal circumstances, vaccines take 10 to 15 years to develop. In under one year, COVID vaccines were ready. The world has resumed and almost everyone is taken precautions.

People used to talk more about the end of the world and impending doom for so long for many centuries that people actually looked forward to the world getting worse. Today, people go about their daily lives, not being superstitious and idly waiting for the world to end, though they have it at the back of their minds that it can end soon. Remember, the world keeps getting better and worse at the same time. However, many don’t want to hear that it is better than it used to be.

All I am asking from you, O reader, is to leave a place better than you found it. Let the world be better because you are in it. Make someone’s life better. Make your environment better. It will make your life better.

Don’t worry. We will talk about it getting worse as well 🙃

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