September 1, 2022 10:07 AM
This week’s Courier Herald column:
The headlines these days are mostly negative. We’ve mostly moved on from pandemic news to stories about inflation, rising interest rates, and a likely recession. If you move on from news of the domestic economy, Europe is mired in a land war and is worried whether it will have the energy to heat homes and keep factories open this winter. China has yet to emerge from Covid lockdowns, is facing record drought conditions, but still has time to continuously tweak Taiwan which is a not so veiled threat against U.S. semiconductor supplies and the backbone of our economy.
You don’t have to look hard to find bad news virtually anywhere on the globe. It’s easy to conclude that “Everything is awful.” I’m as guilty as anyone of falling into this mindset.
I was in one of those frames of mind when a friend texted a tweet from Neoliberal, an account I don’t follow. It stated the following: “Africa’s child mortality rate today is better than Europe’s child mortality rate was in the 1950’s. The world, despite all of our setbacks, is really getting better.”
It included a graph of child mortality rates from each continent and aggregated world statistics. All showed significant declines in child mortality rates from 1950 to 2019, using United Nations data. In the 1950’s, roughly one in three children born in Africa died before their fifth birthday. Today it’s closer to seven out of one hundred.
Is seven out of one hundred too many? Absolutely. But the gap between African nations and more developed countries is closing rapidly, with the African mortality rate being cut in half in the last two decades. Progress, especially when dramatic, should be celebrated despite the need to do more.
I won’t go into the reasons or even what is or can be done to continue to improve child mortality there or here, as that’s not the overall point today. I’m more concerned with us finding, recognizing, and celebrating the good news when we find it.
I’m sure there are some who are reading who want to know why it’s good news that Africa has a child mortality rate many times that of North America or Europe. It’s not.
To find the good news, we sometimes have to take a step back. Data – good and bad – should be measured and analyzed in context and over time.
The good news is where we’re heading and the progress in our journey. It’s not about where we are.
During the early days of our pandemic, I wrote several times that we were “trapped in the present”. We couldn’t go backwards to better times. We weren’t allowed to move forward.
Too often when we’re viewing our own situations or those of the world, we trap ourselves in the present. Without the context of where we’ve come from or where we’re heading, any data point can be viewed as bad, as most anything will be less than perfect.
It’s admirable and desirable to pursue perfection. It’s folly to expect it, and judge progress at any point in time as subpar because perfection hasn’t been obtained.
This becomes an issue when we’re trying to solve all kinds of problems, especially when vetting them through social media. Too many believe any solution that falls short of nirvana is flawed or even part of the problem. Some would rather do nothing than taking the risk of moving forward and only achieving part of their goals. It’s much easier to point out the negative present than to forge the path to a better future.
We have problems that need solving, all around the world and right here in our backyards. We would do better to start filtering the possible solutions through the context of where we’ve been and where we want to do, rather than dwell on the less than optimal present situation.
Find the good news amid the issues of the day. Optimists are the problem solvers.