Pull Back

rbf“Grumpy and bitter isn’t a place we begin. It’s a place we end up.

People don’t become selfish, hateful and afraid all at once. They do it gradually.

Do we find ourselves taking actions that make our conversations more considered, our arguments more informed, our engagements more civil? Or precisely the opposite, because it’s easier?” Those are Seth Godin’s observations in a recent blog post.

If you’ve been watching the Republican and Democratic conventions, characterizing the Republicans as grumpier and the Democrats as cheerier would be accurate. The Republicans seem focused on the negative, much of which resulted from their earlier policies and obstructionism. The Democrats seem to have a bigger tent and longer term view.

Leaving American politics aside, there are lots of people in the world who think everything is getting worse. But if we zoom out to see the bigger picture, the trending is more towards the good than bad for humans.

Today the standard of living is better than it used to be, in the US and even worldwide. It’s not where everyone would like, but it’s happening. While there’s occasional backsliding, but the general direction is toward a higher standard of living.

Consider that over the past century humans have reined in famine, plague, and war. What used to be uncontrollable and mysterious forces of nature are now more or less manageable challenges.

Now in the affluent countries, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.

You never guess it by watching the news, but the average American is a thousand times more likely to die from bingeing at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

Grumpier results from the easier short-term take on life. Cheerier happens if you can take a longer view.