Bad News

I scan the headlines and see all bad news: atrocities, violence, suffering, political strife and malice, economic instability, etc. All that bad news often makes me feel bad. I’ll often spend at least part of an otherwise beautiful morning feeling weighed down by the bad news.

I suppose that feeling is better than indifference or apathy. But still, it can be unsettling.

But it’s important to keep in mind (even though I don’t do it as often as I should) that those stories are not newsworthy because they’re common. They’re newsworthy because they’re rare. The news stories that are the most upsetting, shake us because they are events far outside the everyday norm to which we’re accustomed.

We need to give ourselves more credit than we do. Even though it may seem counter intuitive, we live in the best conditions humanity has ever had. There is less violence, less poverty, less suffering, less hunger, less war, less injustice, than at any time in history. And conditions continue to improve.

I always get push back when I make that claim (which is objectively demonstrable). Progressives may interpret it as being insufficiently sensitive to the suffering in the world, and conservatives may interpret it as being insufficiently appreciative of the past. But I stand by it. Although there are places of extreme suffering in the world today, the average person in the world at any time in the past would happily trade places with the average person today.

That is not to say that things are all going swimmingly. Of course not. There is still way too much violence, poverty, suffering, hunger, war and injustice in the world and it is a good thing that our consciences and sympathies remain attuned to them. We have plenty of good work to do to make the world into the place it is designed and destined to be. But despite what we may be led to believe, we’re not sinking ever deeper into misery, violence and decay. It’s a bumpy road, with some frightening detours, but it leads upward.