Politics & Society

Barack Obama has a one-question test that proves the world has never been better

By October 2, 2017 No Comments

Are television news and online media sources tricking us all into believing that the world is in a desperate state while everything is actually okay?

You see, I feel a bit too concerned by possible war between the US government and North Korea, the devastation left by several hurricanes, genocide in Myanmar, mass migration, the degradation of the environment and other equally disturbing factors, to see our current time as the wealthiest, healthiest and least violent of times.

What do you think?

Yet this was the opinion former US president Barack Obama expressed during his keynote speech at the Bill and Belinda Foundation Conference on 20 September as reported by Business Insider.

In fact, he has a single question to ask anyone doubting this:

“If you had to choose one moment in history in which to be born, and you didn’t know in advance whether you were going to be male or female, which country you were going to be from, what your status was, you’d choose right now,” he told the audience.

He went on to say that world has never been “healthier, or wealthier, or better educated, or in many ways more tolerant, or less violent, than it is today.”

I understand where he’s coming from – he probably had the Gates foundation’s recent “Goalkeepers” report in mind. A report which makes Gates and his wife Belinda optimistic about the future, because their foundation’s work has produced many positive results:

  • Despite popular perceptions, over the last 25 years extreme poverty has been cut in half;
  • 122 million children’s lives have been saved since 1990 — these are children who would have died if mortality rates had stayed where they were in 1990;
  • Coverage for the basic childhood vaccines is now the highest it’s ever been, at 86 percent;
  • The complete eradication of polio and malaria will happen in the foreseeable future.

So yes, for a certain proportion of the global population, this is the best time to be alive. It’s better than starving in abject poverty, but is it a good life? These are improvements in human conditions that happen outside of most people’s reality, maybe that’s why one is initially startled to hear that “it’s the best time to be alive”.

But I’ll give you this: It’s an exciting time to be alive.

Life as we know it will be much altered in the next ten years. And this fact makes for very uncertain times to be alive.

It’s very hard for me to imagine that anybody can really be optimistic about our time. For that to be the case, you would have to be uninformed (to put it politely) or informed but not compassionate. Or you’d have to believe that you are invincible.

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