Daily headlines report grotesque gun massacres, hurricanes, political fights, tornados, Mideast slaughter, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. All this mayhem obscures the reality that human life slowly is becoming better.
"Examine the data over time, and you'll find irrefutable evidence of progress: the decline of war and violent crime, the increase in lifespans; the spread of literacy, democracy, and equal rights; the waning of privilege based on race, gender, heredity, beliefs."
That 's how The Christian Science Monitor described a special report on gradual improvement in living conditions around the planet.
The national newspaper said horrifying events "can make us beat our fists on the table and ask where was God." But quietly, relentlessly, little-noticed, betterment keeps advancing. The Monitor outlined:
"Extreme poverty is declining. HIV is no longer a death sentence. Technology is transforming everything from African agriculture to urban transportation. Drug violence is decreasing in Mexico. Travel is safer almost everywhere. Crime rates are falling. Somalia is emerging from a long night of anarchy. Myanmar [Burma] is coming out of its dictatorial shell. ... Freedom lives in 7 billion hearts."
This hopeful outlook is a fine way to begin a new year. It's the same message that Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker delivered last year in his landmark book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined."
Dr. Pinker cited data showing that warfare has receded dramatically, democracy steadily proliferates, human rights keep advancing, illiteracy is retreating, and the like. He calculated that war deaths are only one-thousandth as bad today as in bloody past centuries.
The same conclusion was reached by American University professor Joshua Goldstein in his book, "Winning the War on War." He said:
"Despite all the hand-wringing, fearmongering and bad-news headlines, peace is on the rise. Fewer wars are starting, more are ending, and those that remain are smaller and more localized than in past years. Incredibly, no national armies are still fighting one another; all of today's wars are civil wars."
As 2013 brings new opportunity, it's great that humanity's chances look brighter. Frankly, we think the march of progress was aided when American voters re-elected President Obama and endorsed the Democratic Party's agenda of helping average families.
Therefore, the new year begins on an upbeat note.