Since the start of the year I have been writing a monthly review, which means I have been paying more attention than usual to world events.
And what a depressing thing it is. It seems that the world is going to hell in a handcart (or handbasket, depending on your preferred means of travel to the underworld). Or is it…?
On the face of it you would have to say, yes it is. In fact I have.
There seem to be wars, conflicts, skirmishes and disease everywhere you look. Atrocities are going on in Libya and Syria, both of which were either started by or developed into a battle involving ISIS and their warped view of Islam that wants to take us back to medieval times.
This has now also spilled into Iraq and surrounding areas, the west has got involved and there are fears that the violence will spill over into the streets of the UK. The terrorist threat is a major concern with terror threat levels in the UK raised from “substantial” to “severe”
Elsewhere, Russia has backed rebel forces to take over big chunks of Ukraine, resulting in more bloodshed.
In Africa, which has more than its fair share of wars and atrocities at the best of times, again often inspired by religion, there is now also an outbreak of Ebola. Deaths from this are mounting at an alarming rate and are now starting to appear in Europe and America.
So, as I say, on the face of it things are pretty bad.
However, the editorial in last week’s The Week magazine calls this view into question.
Referring to an article in the FT by Simon Kuper, it says that the world has never been so safe and is getting safer.
The number of people killed in wars globally every year has dropped dramatically since the Second World War.
Deaths from all forms of violence are now “vastly outnumbered” by lives saved from infectious disease, even taking the recent Ebola outbreak into account.
If this is true, why do things feel so shitty?
I think it is just because we hear so much about them. We now have 24 hour rolling news, social media and ever more salacious newspapers and magazines, all of whom benefit more from spreading fear, doom and panic than they do from spreading joy and cheer.
I believe the same is true of more domestic crime. Are there really more murderers, rapists and paedophiles at large now than there were back in the ‘good old days’, when you could leave your doors unlocked and children could happily play unrestrained in our streets and parks?
I’m not convinced there are, it is just that we didn’t used to hear so much about them and therefore weren’t as afraid.
Of course, every act of violence or unnecessary death is a thing to mourn, but is our current fear disproportionate? Are we limiting our freedoms and living in fear unnecessarily?
Perhaps we should all stop reading the papers and listening to the news and see how the world feels then.
Unfortunately I have committed myself to keeping my monthly reviews going for the rest of the year, so I’ll have to leave it until next year to put it to the test.