2015 was the best year throughout the history for most people.
There was no lack of negative comments by the end of 2015. Both media and politicians talked about a world on the edge. The situation has never been more difficult, people said.
This fundamental pessimism is both pointless and dangerous.
Dangerous because it leads to wrong decisions. Meaningless because the reality is the opposite. For the average man, 2015 was the best year throughout the history. We are higher, better nourished and educated than ever. We live longer. And the chance of dying a violent death is drastically reduced.
If the history was another country, that country would be more poor and violent, and less democratic. It would be a country where people are more ill and die decades earlier. At the time when I was born, life expectancy in the world was 46 years. Now both I and the history have passed that age, and the average person will be over 70 years old.
Time for a reality check? The most common cause of death for young people is not war and terrorism. Nor infectious diseases such as malaria or AIDS. The fact is that traffic accidents kill most young lives. This should lead us to effective measures against traffic death, but it is also a wonderful testimony on how far we've come in reducing the major killers in the world history - dangerous diseases, famine and war.
'Boys are working in the fields and girls are doing household chores instead of learning how to read and write'. Many people in rich countries believe that this is the everyday life for children in developing countries. But the truth is the opposite. More than nine out of ten children today will begin school. And almost just as many will receive vaccines against deadly diseases. The last two decades we have halved extreme poverty and child mortality. There are 6.7 million fewer children dying today than in 1990. One of the most successful developing countries, Ethiopia has reduced child mortality by 2/3 since the early 90s. At the same time life expectancy in Ethiopia has increased by one year each year over the past decade. It might be time for some champagne?
Ok! There is economic and social progress - but there is more violence in the world today, many say.
Also wrong. We live in the most peaceful time throughout the history. While terrorist attacks account for 2 percent of all violent deaths, three times as many people die of rabies. Stomach cancer kills more men and women than all wars combined. Deaths on the battlefield and in terrorism have increased slightly since 2010, mostly because of the war in Syria, but are still at a historically low point. Every murder is cruel, but remember that through the three months long Rwandan genocide in 1994 three times as many people were killed compared to the last five years of war in Syria. It is worth reflecting on why the negative images of the world dominate, when the main image is so positive. I think many key players believe it's in their interests to build up under an image of pessimism. Politicians believe voters are best mobilized through denigrating campaigns against opponents and fear based rhetoric. Civil organisations believe it is easier to collect money by giving people a bad conscience. Media believe negative news sells more newspapers and provide more clicks. Behind all this, there might also be our own inclinations toward the dramatic? Who will read a crime novel without murder or a love novel in which the hero and heroine ride happily through life over several hundred pages?
Pessimism serves different purposes. But it is dangerous.
It makes us paralyzed. Who will engage politically when past politicians obviously have not achieved their goals, and we hear that very few things work? Why should we give money to good causes if the organization behind is not able to improve the world?
Pessimism also leads to wrong choices. It feels both impossible and useless to learn if everything is wrong. Instead, let us look and learn from the major development-, environment- and peace-successes: East Asia and Latin America have enjoyed tremendous economic progress and they have peace. What have they done right that countries in Africa and the Middle East can learn from? We learn more from success stories than from failures. An optimistic view of the world does not mean that we deny the suffering of Africa's poor or Middle East terror victims. But optimism makes it easier to mobilize for action, find the right solutions and do more. Most men and women live better lives today than at any other time throughout the history. But for those who do not benefit from all the success stories, it is necessary with a dose of optimism to find new and even better solutions for the future.