If the world was perfect, journalists would always present the news in a neutral, factual manner but the reality is that they’re doing everything they can to get ratings–which usually means “dummying” down what they report on and concentrating on the dramatic. We know from the webinar a few weeks ago that our brains can’t help but focus on the negative because, in the distant past, that’s what kept us alive! Many of the people who make money from the news, unfortunately, exploit that human trait to boost their ratings.
Because of this, our worldview has become skewed towards the negative, not toward reality. At the center of this negative worldview is the notion that people on this planet are worse off than ever before. But that is a total and complete lie! Today I’m giving thanks because less of the world is being run by sexist and oppressive patriarchies, there is far less poverty than ever before, and people are living longer!
Some misconceptions are mega because of how fundamentally they mess up our understanding of the world. “Megamisconceptions”, like “developed world” or the “West” versus the “developing world”, prevent us from seeing the world accurately. Let me share a brief example.
One of the measures tracked by UNICEF is child mortality. This measure takes the temperature of a whole society. Like a huge thermometer, because children are very fragile and there are so many things that can kill them. So when child mortality is low in a country, that tells us their parents and their society have protected them from the dangers that could have killed them: germs, starvation, violence, and so on. It tells us that, for the most part, families in that country have enough food, their sewage systems aren’t leaking into their drinking water, they have access to primary health care, and mothers are literate. It doesn’t just tell us about the children’s health, it gives a gauge of the quality of the entire society.
If we looked at the child mortality rate around the world in 1965, 125 countries fell into the “developing” category of having more than 5% of their children die before their fifth birthday. Today that category contains only 13 countries out of about 195. In other words, the misconception that there are two large categories of countries in the world: developed and developing, is outdated–there is no “West and the rest” any longer.
All these positive changes: fewer oppressive patriarchies; lower child mortality and poverty; and people living longer are due to a global economy that continues to boost people out of poverty and into higher income levels. In fact, if all the middle-and high-income countries were combined, it would account for 91 percent of humanity. Wow! Amazing considering that only 200 years ago, 85% of the world was living in poverty.
If you want to have your mind blown, if you want to uncover ten societal biases that we blindly follow but don’t have to follow going forward, if you’d like to learn the 16 terrible things in the world that are on their way out–or have even already disappeared–and the 16 wonderful things that have gotten better… then you absolutely must read or listen to the book by Hans Rosling, Factfulness. Acquire the stress-reducing habit of only believing things for which there are strong supporting facts, and boost your thankfulness that the world is steadily improving, despite what the doom-and-gloomers would have you believe.
It turns out that the world, in spite of its imperfections, is in much better shape than we might think. There are still real concerns but if you change the way you see the world, and embrace a worldview based on facts, you can empower yourself to respond to the actual crises, and opportunities, of the future.
Give yourself the gift of awareness this holiday season, read or listen to Factfulness, and discover for yourself how much we all have to be thankful for.