Smile! Things are getting better! Really.
July 4, 2017 9:21 PM   Subscribe

In that column, dated July 1, Nicholas Kristof wrote "The most important historical force in the world is not President Trump... it's the stunning gains on our watch against extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease." Then the first link at the bottom goes to a June 24th Kristof column on how President Trump's proposal to slash humanitarian aid would stop some of those gains cold.

Nick, are you pulling a "Good News, Bad News" joke on us?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:47 PM on July 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nicholas Kristof is eternally thoughtful, and earnest, and... boring.
posted by twsf at 10:09 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
posted by riverlife at 10:15 PM on July 4, 2017

Part of what's feeding into the gains against poverty, illiteracy and to some extent disease is the way the inexorable grinding juggernaut of market forces is now what's driving distributed renewable energy generation and storage, and part of what's making me cheerful in 2017 is watching that loom ever larger in the rear view window of "free market capitalist" stooges like President Rump and our own local right-wing clown car.
posted by flabdablet at 10:22 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Kristof's praised sweatshops in the past (not once, but twice), so I'm skeptical about his opinions about global well-being. (Luckily, NYT published another op-ed just this year about how, yes, sweatshops really are horrible.)

Absent from this—and nearly every other "It could be worse! The world is getting better all the time! Your fears are all in your head!"—piece is perspective. For example, Kristof hints at climate change—"the risk of rising seas"—but immediately dismisses it as just another crisis:
Those are good reasons for concern, but remember that for most of history humans agonized over something more elemental: Will my children survive?
So out-of-touch, it blows my mind. This question still plagues countless humans, and children may already be dying because of climate change. By some metrics (e.g., child mortality, some disease prevention), we've made great strides, but our progress will disappear if we make the planet uninhabitable for each other. Future progress is not guaranteed, simply because we have made some progress in recent decades.
posted by iamfantastikate at 10:38 PM on July 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

What's with these goddamn people ordering everyone to smile?
posted by thelonius at 1:05 AM on July 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Just because fewer people are suffering from extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease is no reason to conclude that things are getting better.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:29 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just because fewer people are suffering from extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease is no reason to conclude that things are getting worse.

I'm always fascinated when gloomerism is the preferred outlook. Does one strive for progress, or for utopia? Is it not worth celebration that humanity is winning even of only by some metrics? Is it not worthwhile if you have never personally been threatened by extreme poverty or leprosy? It's good that you aim higher. It's also good that more people will never know those threats. They will aim higher, too.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:10 AM on July 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Nice try, but nothing is going to rescue me from this pit of despair.
posted by tommasz at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

If any one thing can be said to be a panacea for poverty, global warming, and other ills, it is autonomy and reproductive choice/control for women. Making sure that every last girl and women around the globe can read, write, do math, control her fertility, not marry until she's at least 18, and have money, a job, or land of her own makes everything else fall into place. Women, for the most part, want small (2 or 3 kids) families, and if given access to birth control, they have them. Family size has been falling in most parts of the world, and this is why.

I hope the current administration doesn't mean a return to young marriages, large families with no way to support them - you know, "family values" - and poor health and early death for many women. Sadly, it seems like that is the goal in the red parts of the United States.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Just because fewer people are suffering from extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease is no reason to conclude that things are getting better.

Rising is just falling in a different direction
posted by Sebmojo at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2017

I was okay with this article until I got to the "both sides" bit here:

... Perhaps the optimism doesn’t feel right. You’re alarmed by President Trump (or Nancy Pelosi), terrorism and the risk of rising seas ...

Nancy Pelosi?

We're talking about the Congressional Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi? Who does not even have any input on policy discussions in the current House of Representatives, let alone actual legislation?

And we're comparing her to the President, with his finger on the nuclear button, and unified Republican control over the Presidency, the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court?

That's some seriously weak sauce.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:54 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

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