One of our national newspapers has an editorial policy that every article should make its reader angry or scared, preferably both. It’s not just national newspapers which make the world look bleak. Look at the first five items on any news programme and you will be hard pushed to see a good news story in any of them. So it’s small wonder when you ask people in the street or on their doorstep how they think things are, that you get a pretty negative answer. No one denies that there are huge problems facing us in 2018 but perhaps it’s time for a little rebalancing of the facts.
Things are better. Really, they are! Across the world extreme poverty rates are plummeting, literacy levels are rocketing and after decades, even centuries, of rising inequality that trend is now reversed. More people in the world are living in a democracy, vaccination rates are making some diseases disappear and child mortality is but a fraction of what it was even just a few years ago.
Here at home there is a case to be made that whilst Governments can claim some credit for improvements to our lives, perhaps the younger generation are rather better, kinder people than those that went before. Teenage pregnancies have just about halved in number in recent years. Binge drinking is still a problem but a significantly smaller one according to official statistics. Crime has risen a little in the last year but still remains at around a third of what it was in 2010. In our schools children are now benefitting from the highest quality teaching in my lifetime. 95% of children in West Berkshire are being taught in schools that are independently rated as good or outstanding. Phonics is delivering literacy levels undreamed of a decade ago.
It’s hard to find a headline about our NHS that doesn’t have the word “chaos” or “crisis” in it but, according to a US based foundation that rates health systems, the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world. It treats over 1 million patients every 36 hours and has more doctors, nurses and other clinicians than ever before.
I could go on but perhaps at the start of a New Year a little optimism is good for the soul. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Be cheerful – the problems that worry us most are those that never arrive”.