“Up From Poverty” is the headline on the cover of the weekly Christian Science Monitor newsmagazine for February 8. In smaller print, “Almost unnoticed the world has made more progress on reducing poverty, increasing incomes, and improving health at any time in history.”
One of things I like about the Monitor is, without being sentimental, it is committed to covering good news. I wonder how the American mood might change if more media had this philosophy?
As it is, we seem to have morphed from, “If it bleeds, it leads,” to “If it terrifies, trumphet it — over and over and over.” This is not to suggest that real problems should be ignored. But I wonder if our enthrallment, one might say, with horror, disaster, and depravity don’t have something—a lot really—to do with the extraordinary levels of anger and anxiety that fuel our politics.
Back to “Up From Poverty,” which is written by Steven Radelet of Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution. “Global poverty has fallen faster during the past 20 years than at any time in history. Around the world hunger, child death, and disease rates have all plummeted. More girls are getting into school. In fact, never before have so many people, in so many poor countries, made so much progress in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy.”
Quite a statement! Quite an accomplishment! Quite some good news!
But you’d never suspect any of this from the daily barrage of war, terror, epidemic, economic chaos, and environmental apocalypse.
Radelet expands and documents his thesis before indicating three big picture reasons for the changes that began in the 1990’s. First came the end of the Cold War and the pattern of both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. propping up some really nasty dictators and crooks. Second, globalization and international access to new technology have strengthened economies. The third factor Radelet cites is, “Strong leadership and courageous action by the people in those countries themselves.” Only after noting these three factors does Radelet credit international aid with some contribution.
Good news indeed! Do we want to hear it? Or does good news mess with an almost manichean commitment to the power and pervasiveness of decline and disaster that we, in what I would call “bad faith,” cling to? After all, if everything is decline and disaster, nothing much can be expected of us, can it?
Image via the Christian Science Monitor.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.