I know…not exactly the most hilarious, side-splitting way to open a conversation or a comedy show, for that matter. Ah, remember the good old days when we used to do comedy shows???
Relax, Chicken Little. I bring some good news, even as I write this after a see-saw US election that still hasn’t been completely resolved. This good news comes in the form of two amazing books that coaxed me out from underneath my comforter and back into the real world.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling. Both books are really uplifting and perfect for the challenging times that we are going through.
Maybe it’s all fake news?
I don’t think so. These books are based upon facts. Remember when we used to care about facts? Also, each book comes with a heavy hitter list of endorsements including two people you might have heard of.
‘A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.’
‘My new favorite book of all time.’
I’m no Barack Obama or Bill Gates, but my Goldendoodle Barnie thinks I’m pretty swell.
I give 10/10 to both books, too!
Okay, great, so Barnie loves you. What are some takeaways from Factfulness?
Facts! Lots of good facts!
-In the past 20 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half.
-60 percent of girls in low-income countries finish public school.
-80 percent of 1 year-olds in the world have been vaccinated against certain types of disease.
What are some takeaways from Enlightenment Now?
Again, lots of solid facts. For example, we are fighting world famine.
In 1973, just forty-seven years ago, one-third of the world was malnourished.
Today, because of advances in science and agriculture, that percentage is down to 13 percent and scientists are working to bring that statistic down even further.
Did you know that just 150 years ago, people starved to death in Sweden because winter was so long? In 1820, 90 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty, but trade encouraged countries to put differences aside.
Globally, there is more wealth and less inequality.
Globalization and technology are helping more countries get wealthier.
The wealthier a country is, the more likely it is to spend on social programs.
The wealthier a country is, the more unlikely it is to be influenced by militant groups.
What about climate change?
Both books state that developments in science and technology are pushing us to get our carbon dioxide emissions cut in half by 2050 and eliminated by 2100.
What about the current political climate – especially, you know where?
Political ‘glitches’ happen every now and then throughout history but hopefully, a growing number of young, educated, more tolerant voters will help make the world a better place in the future. It may not be happening fast enough for most of us who couldn’t peel ourselves away from the TV set on November 3rd, but the demographics are changing.
What about Covid?
Oh yeah, that. Well, researchers are working around the globe and the clock.
As a planet, we have faced many challenges in the past, including war, disease, natural disasters, and political upheavals, just to name a few. But as the facts have shown us over and over again (see my last blog Humankind by Rutger Bregman) the worst actually brings out the best in most humans. It’s better to bet with clan than against it. Sometimes, when things get really, really dark, we laugh with the clan. It helps to stop us from freezing in fear and it keeps us moving forward. We laugh, we learn, we overcome, we do better.
Until we discover a vaccine for Covid, continue practicing the three W’s:
-Wash your hands
-Watch your distance
-Shop at Walmart
-Wear a mask
And don’t forget to laugh. I had the pleasure of working with Monty Python’ John Cleese a few years back. The man is brilliant and obviously hysterical. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
‘Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.’
Until next month,