Happy Thanksgiving: Two thought-leaders on things getting better

Thanksgiving tends to produce a standard stock (schlock?) of stories that fit the holiday theme and also appear to be produced based on the assumption nobody actually reads them.

Stories about turkeys, shopping, hunger, obesity, the wackiness of American family life or maybe the pilgrims. You can usually guess what they say without even reading them.

But here are two Thanksgiving articles that I think are well worth reading, both of them noting that we should give thanks that the world is getting better.

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times asks Are we getting nicer? Yes we are, Kristof says:

It’s pretty easy to conclude that the world is spinning down the toilet.

So let me be contrary and offer a reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Despite the gloomy mood, the historical backdrop is stunning progress in human decency over recent centuries.War is declining, and humanity is becoming less violent, less racist and less sexist — and this moral progress has accelerated in recent decades. To put it bluntly, we humans seem to be getting nicer.

Kristof then goes on to cite evidence of increasing amounts of niceness.

Over at Foreign Policy magazine, Charles Kenny (author of the book Getting Better) similarly suggests we should all be Counting our blessings. Says Kenny:

It’s been a tough year, and one in which a lot of people around the world might be struggling to find things to be thankful for. In the United States, unemployment remains stubbornly high, growth stubbornly low, and good sense on Capitol Hill stubbornly absent. European debt, meanwhile, looks about as secure as a Las Vegas mortgage. But look more broadly at the state of the world and there’s a lot going right — so give that thanks and pass the gravy.

Kenny then goes on to list 10 facts (the blogosphere likes lists, especially lists of 10, however arbitrary they may be) that demonstrate the world, overall, is on an upswing.

He begins by noting the increased amount of vegetarianism, a trend turkeys — if not turkey farmers — can also celebrate.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • Terry

    geez I dont know. Thought leaders, indeed….at 50,000 feet…those points seem pretty narrow; I can imagine 30 points rejected to wack it down to 10…bad news intruding like zombies pressing their faces up against the windows with a storm raging outside in the night, but the writers are snug in their houses….denial, good editing, wishful thinking, hopefulness?  Here’s one I found I find coherent and hopeful:  “The Empathic civilization” by Jeremy Rifkin.  Mirror neurons, growing empathy, a race of globally tolerant people against the steeply climbing “entropic deficit” of what kind of energy it takes to evolve and sustain such cool globally tolerant people.  What will win, a new global empathic civilization that keeps getting nicer or an entropic crash…no challenges go away, nothing gets easier, but I like the frame….  Good to see you are back Tom!  Thanks like always for the great blog!

  • Terry

    geez I dont know. Thought leaders, indeed….at 50,000 feet…those points seem pretty narrow; I can imagine 30 points rejected to wack it down to 10…bad news intruding like zombies pressing their faces up against the windows with a storm raging outside in the night, but the writers are snug in their houses….denial, good editing, wishful thinking, hopefulness?  Here’s one I found I find coherent and hopeful:  “The Empathic civilization” by Jeremy Rifkin.  Mirror neurons, growing empathy, a race of globally tolerant people against the steeply climbing “entropic deficit” of what kind of energy it takes to evolve and sustain such cool globally tolerant people.  What will win, a new global empathic civilization that keeps getting nicer or an entropic crash…no challenges go away, nothing gets easier, but I like the frame….  Good to see you are back Tom!  Thanks like always for the great blog!