November is almost here, which means the end of this year is fast approaching, and already some people are suggesting that we have lived through a horrible twelve months.
Certainly it has been a year of global terrorism, refugee crises, climate changes, and race-related shootings.
But has it really been so bad?
If we study history I believe we will discover that humans “have never had it so good” as we have it today.
Life expectancy has risen more in the past 50 years than in the previous thousand years.
Because of this, a child born in 2016 stands a fairly good chance of seeing the arrival of the 22nd Century.
The likelihood of a violent death has never been lower. On average, we are better educated than ever. And childhood mortality has plummeted.
Among the most striking changes, the last few decades has brought remarkable successes in tackling global poverty. While in 1981, almost half the people in the developing world lived below the poverty line; as of 2012, that figure had dropped to 12.7%.
In most previous centuries if we got ill, the medical care might involve leeches and trepanning. A violent death would always feel near.
And the probability would be that we would be poor and hungry for most of our lives. For the majority of people throughout history, life was hard, short—and at times—brutal.
Of course, nothing is perfect There is no doubt that our species is far from nailing the task of becoming a prosperous, harmonious civilisation.
Apart from an increase in living standards, such improvements mean that we are, in turn, better placed to solve the 21st Century’s problems. Ovid, a philosopher who was born in 43 BC, said: “Let others praise ancient times, I am glad I was born in these.” Of course he would be astonished if he could see us and realize the benefits we have today.
When we think of it, we may see we are the luckiest generation that has ever lived.