We know some stuff about how big families work, and one of the things we know–say about people who are number six out of seven children–is that these children will often make their contribution to the family’s functionality by changing roles. When the family needs a cheerleader, out come the pom-poms. When the family needs a voice of reason, logic is the order of the day. When the family is embarking on an ill-planned adventure, the younger siblings will often be the ones muttering, “Mapquest says this isn’t a shortcut…”
The benefit of having these folks around–cheerleaders one day, oracles of doom the next–is that the group as a whole gets a wider perspective on any situation. The “after-thought” position takes a broad view, and tries to make sure all the data gets consideration. It only FEELS like these people are contrarians, or to use the pathological term, “oppositional-defiant.” (I am not!)
So… at this time, which many of us find trying, I’d like to offer some reason for optimism: The world really is getting better in a lot of significant ways. Let’s start with extreme poverty, which is generally defined as living on less than two dollars day. The 189 UN member nations set a goal in 2000 of cutting our extreme poverty figures in half in fifteen years. We met that goal five years early, despite that stinky old recession.
And what about population growth? It has already slowed down, and is projected to level off around 2070 and then start dropping. As people live longer and education becomes more readily available, women have smaller families. In some countries (the US and UK) this took many decades. South Korea pulled it off in eighteen years. Iran accomplished population stability in ten years. Got grandkids? Spoil ’em rotten, because there will never again be as many children on the planet as we have now.
In other areas, from education, to child mortality, to health, to freedom… we’ve made enormous strides. With fewer children to educate, by the end of this century, we should achieve just about 100 literacy. Consider that in 1900 we were at 26 percent literacy, and now we’re up to 85 percent. Take a bow, us. More people live in democratic societies than ever before, and what we’ve done with child mortality is miraculous. In 1900, 36 percent of all children died before age five (down from 43 percent in 1800). Now? We’re at 4.3 percent worldwide and dropping.
So, yes, of course. We face big challenges, and there’s plenty of reason to be worried and tired and fed up. But there are more of us than ever before to tackle the big problems, we’re better educated and in better health than we’ve ever been before, we’re safer than we’ve been before, more of us have political freedom than ever before, and we’ve achieved miracles when we work together. My money’s on us, as are my love, my hope, and my best efforts.
Your turn: What do you see–big picture, small picture, anywhere–that gives you hope and encouragement? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of His Lordship’s True Lady, because TRUE LOVE ALWAYS WINS. (Does too.)