How to Stay Happy When the Sky is Falling In

  • 2016-07-06
  • The Guardian

Brexit, Zika, gun violence, the England football team: there’s been no shortage of bad news lately. Here’s how to look on the bright side.

Seen from a certain perspective, the last few months on planet Earth have been pretty unreservedly amazing. Nobody died from smallpox. Almost nobody contracted polio. Hospital operating theatres weren’t generally filled with the screams of patients undergoing surgery without anaesthetic, and no war claimed anything like the single-day death toll of the first hours of the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago this week. Britain decided the question of European Union membership via democratic vote, not armed conflict, and women were entitled to participate – an astonishingly recent state of affairs. Though we don’t have all the figures yet, it’s likely that gun violence in America continued its long-term decline and that extreme poverty around the world continued to fall. Oh, and that working people on both sides of the Atlantic enjoyed unprecedented quantities of leisure time. Even if you don’t believe in the inevitability of human progress – maybe things really will get worse again in the future – it’s hard to deny that we’re having a good run.

But it hasn’t felt that way, of course. If you paid even scant attention to the headlines, or to social media, even before the shock of the Brexit vote, it felt peculiarly, unremittingly bad: the killings in Orlando, and the failure of gun control efforts in their wake; the return of English football hooliganism; the nastiness unleashed by the Brexit referendum; and then the horrifying killing of Jo Cox MP – all against the backdrop of the advance of both Donald Trump and the Zika virus. (Climate change didn’t go anywhere, either.)