If only each of us had an Oddball in our lives to keep out some of the negative waves.
If it bleeds it leads is the long held mantra of news agencies throughout the world. Its national news if a factory closes. Its local news if a factory opens. If a bomb explodes in Iraq, its news. If a school gets rebuilt, its not.
This is not a new phenomenon of course. I’m sure that my grandparents complained about how negative the news was 50 years ago. I’m sure that my parents complained about how negative the news was 30 years ago. I doubt that the general tenor of the news has changed much. Something else has changed however.
Local newspapers, national radio and national news have been transformed by technology into a hulking presence in our lives. Never before have people been confronted with so much information. Newspapers, magazines, television, and the Internet constantly stream bad news into our lives. Bad news has always come. It just used to come less often. The newspaper came once a day. The national evening news came on after work and the local television news came on before bed. And that was mostly it.
Changes in technology have brought natural disasters from around the globe into our living rooms in a way that, perhaps, is all too real. All too pervasive. Anything that happens in the world can be filmed and broadcast immediately and repeatedly into your home.
I’m just not sure that we are prepared to handle today’s ever present, 24 hour news cycle. We are inundated with way too much information. Too much negative information.
The last eight years have included any number of awful historical events. The attacks of September 11. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hurricane Katrina. The Asian tsunami. The decline of the traditional trans-Atlantic relationship. Economic stagnation. Failure of immigration policy reform. Steroids in baseball. Corporate scandal and corporate greed. An unhealthy health care system. Obesity on a societal scale. Housing and energy crises.
A lot of items, to be sure. But how many of these things have actually impacted your life? All of these things impact our mood to be sure. But are they really impacting your life? If not, then I just don’t understand the pessimism. The negative take on nearly everything that is going on around us.
Some see the gap between the haves and have nots expanding. I see a billion or two less have nots in the world over the last two decades.
Some see globalization as negatively affecting their lives. I see an America that is on the cutting edge of a global economy which is booming and which is lifting billions out of poverty.
Some see the bleak financial situations of old line industries, from autos, to music to newspapers. I see Microsoft, and Apple, Google and a United States that absolutely dominates the list of Most Admired Companies.
Some see higher commodity prices. I see higher commodity prices as a result of more people being able to purchase food and materials than were able to ten years ago and a market economy which takes time to adjust to increased demand levels.
Some see human rights abuses in China. I see a Chinese government which gets a lot of the big picture things right and is terribly worried about the effect instability would have on the lives of a billion people.
Some see climate change as a coming ecological disaster and as evidence that selfish Americans “just don’t get it.” I see reasonable skepticism resulting from a societal/global history of proclamations of doom and a need to balance changes in how we produce and consume energy with the need for massive technological innovation while continuing to grow a global economy which is eliminating poverty.
Some see a housing slump which will result in a new Great Depression. I see a world economic outlook which is absolutely nothing like what my grandparents experienced.
Some see a collapsed bridge and proclaim the dire straight of American infrastructure. I see the trillions of dollars we just spent replacing, upgrading and expanding our nations housing stock, the most basic form of infrastructure.
Some see war everywhere across the globe. I see less war than at any time in history.
Some see problems in the Middle East. I see…well, okay, they’ve got a point on that one.
I’m not saying that the world is perfect. I simply think that the combination of tumultuous events we’ve seen occur over the last 8 years, combined with societal changes and global economic changes causes us to be overly pessimistic. The information overload which we experience everyday plays into the American propensity to fear that we are falling behind in something or anything and our natural susceptibility to predictions of doom.
The pervading sense of crisis which over hangs the national conversation is mostly a false crisis. There is a significant disconnect between reality and perception. The reality is that things are good. The perception is one of crisis. Why is that? Where does it come from?
Unemployment, inflation and crime are low by historical standards. Living standards are the highest they have ever been. People are living longer and living better than they ever have before. Things are so good that we are now complaining that people are too fat!
And so, I guess, I’ve decided to take a stand against the negative waves. I can’t do it alone however and I need your help. In the comment sections below, please take a little bit of time to write something positive. Share something good about the world. A link, a fact or a story. And then send it on to a friend, digg it or stumble it. Print it out and give it to your grandmother.
Share something good and happy for once. And please, stop with the negative waves.