“Factfulness” by Hans “Rosy”ling (intentional J) is a breath-taking piece of analysis, of how the world is becoming a better place if viewed over the past 70 odd years, roughly, post World War II. He takes great pains to take one indicator after another – affluence, falling mortality rate, child deaths, longevity – and goes on to construct the rosy picture that we are much better off than what we were in the 1950s.
The analysis does not cover the events of the current decade (2010 onwards perhaps) when the above indicators would have further improved. However, the increasing animosity among people, reduced tolerance and increased parochialism are clearly evident to any one even on social media, and one does not have to be a sociologist, historian or an anthropologist to decipher that. In this aspect, the world is increasingly becoming a tough place to live in, especially for some segments of people.
Some of the reasons for this trend could be :
- Post the Great Economic Crisis of 2008, while too-big-to-fail banks were bailed out and economies & markets were revived, they proved to be nothing more than steroid-induced revivals. The growth was not all-encompassing and many developed countries for the first time saw huge segments of people becoming poorer over the past 10 years. In democracies where everyone has a voice, these segments gravitated towards right-wing parties which pointed out to a convenient enemy, which had kept these people poor – migrants! Migrants were taking their jobs and hence people were getting poorer. Hatred is the most infectious sentiment, and can be easily bred like mosquitoes on stagnant water. The Nazi movement in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, or recently the Brexit or most infamously Trump’s victory in the United States are testimony to the ease of spread of hatred by identifying a specific physical community.
- The Islamic terror movements of Al Qaeeda and later on the ISIS did not help the cause of migrants across the globe. Islamic migrants started getting viewed with suspicion in asylum-granting countries, and were easy to target again by the hate-mongers. In some countries, this may have spread to their own Islamic citizens too, leave alone migrants, and perhaps the precariously balanced multi-religious social order of the past 500 years may have got disturbed.
- Out of the 70,000 years after the Cognitive Revolution (thanks Noal Yuva Harari), it’s only in the past 100-150 years that man has stopped chopping heads with swords riding on a horse, 0.2% of their entire history. Thus, the veneer of civilisation of human beings is still pretty thin. Social media has brought out the internal bottled-up vitriol out in the open, and catalysed the recently growing hatred across the globe. People had ostensibly got restrained in the past 100 years with face-to-face conversations, debates and other such civilised outcomes of a democratic society. But now, the acid and bile has come out gushing in torrents once you can hide behind the anonymity of a Twitter handle, and wonder of wonders, when you are allowed to curse and abuse celebrities and political leaders in 121 replies. It’s like the walls of dams long restrained have been opened and people are breathing sighs of relief while cursing and muttering under the breath and into the mobile.
In a Blog site named Rational Exuberance, I cannot end this piece on a pessimistic note J. I think that people will get bored of all this hatred and venom over the next couple of decades. Jaundice and cancer of the mind are bad diseases to harbour for a long period of time, and larger swathes of people will realise the negative impact from these sentiments on our own health. People may gravitate towards inane films, sports, books once again and hopefully, that will be the next revolution of mankind!