Better or Worse

Particularly when I’m with old people, the chat tends to assume that the world is getting worse – but this is a major misconception. In 1911, when my dad was born, global life expectancy was about 35 years – it’s now about 70. Even 30 years ago, when I was 50, 29 per cent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty; today that number is 9 per cent. In our time, through improved access to food, shelter and basic healthcare, billions of people have escaped misery; yet we instinctively resist good news.

While growing up, my generation took for granted levels of social certainty which are not there for young people today. In their courtship rituals, their career pathways, the vagaries of technology, new norms are being created, to replace our tired, worn-out protocols; in place of certitude, there is now freedom to innovate. The spontaneous idealism of young people is humanity’s best hope for moral progress; the world they are making has more potential for change than ours had.

Is the world getting better or worse – my take is uncomplicated. Scientific progress continues to improve our material welfare; with moral progress, making peace, justice, equality etc, change is more fragile, but since the second world war we’ve seen an unprecedented advance of human rights.

Around three thousand years ago, there seems to have been a surge in moral/spiritual consciousness; for comfort, I visit some of these ancient texts. This is the Tao Te Ching (300BC): “Embrace simplicity. Put others first. Desire little. Without opening your door, you can understand the way of the Tao”.


This thread was posted on 22nd February by Janne M. Korbonen, a Finnish leftist. He says that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine should be seen in the context that he wants to reinstate the Russian empire.


If you ignore Boris Johnson, ‘The PM and The Profs’ Covid briefings are worthwhile for what Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have to say – both impressive. On Monday, Vallance said: “The virus feeds off and drives inequality”, by which he means the number of ‘excess deaths per capita’ directly correlates to health and income inequalities (Paul Waugh in the ‘i’). Medical science says the poor are more at risk from viruses and it’s impossible to separate this from current inflation. This is a balanced Reuters article which says that inflation is set to peak at 7% in April – the biggest income hit for 30 years – and how some households are already starting to buckle.


Unison, the largest care sector union, has urged Scottish Govt to rescind the contracts of PWC and KPMG, hired to help design Scotland’s new National Care Service. The union claims that both these companies have an international record, promoting market mechanisms in health and care services, and that their involvement with private capital in care homes constitutes a conflict of interest.


Scotland incarcerates more people than other European countries; Justice Secretary, Keith Brown, recently set out his ‘vision’ to change this. Less sceptical than most, Stephen Daisley in the Spectator praises Scotland’s ‘more nuanced’ criminal justice aspirations, but my reading of Brown’s speech was ‘pie in the sky’. You’ve had over a decade – just get the numbers down.


I loved the Olympic curling; both women’s and men’s curling teams were associated with Dumfries and Galloway – a tiny part of a tiny country – ‘think global, act local’. Must find out what local factors enabled this spectacular achievement. Unconnected, a new partnership has been launched to promote the community pub model in Scotland; market failure can enable community hubs.


I was often passionate about work; when ‘harmonious’ it made me more effective, but it was often obsessive, driven by unconscious factors, heading for burn-out. This Conversation article explores this issue, quotes research, even offers an online assessment, based on six occupational categories, on what work suits you. We can’t change our personality – but we can change jobs.


Roberto Verzola, who died in 2020, was a social campaigner and writer from the Philippines. I love this para about corporate power.

“Corporations are a man-made species of business automata – which have exceeded Science Fiction’s worst nightmares – about runaway created systems. When we granted legal personhood to Corporations – we endowed them with the single purpose of maximising profit; like the giant prehistoric predators – they now roam the world – devouring all they encounter. Corporations are now the dominant species on earth – out of control – trashing human society and the natural world with impunity. They now occupy the top of the food chain – have become the greatest threat to human wellbeing.”