WORLDVIEW:  Despite covid the world is a better place

Biden and Putin are talking.

523Views 7Comments Posted 05/01/2022

 By Jonathan Power

We had much to be glum about as we came to the end of 2021. We are brainwashed with bad news. “If it bleeds it leads”, say the wags in the newsroom. One plane crash or celebrity’s death or royal family transgressions or Russian military maneuvers are worth more airtime than the news that, despite Covid,  we are winning the fight against early death.

The World Health Organization has some telling facts. Over the last two decades, infant deaths have fallen by half. Measle deaths have fallen by three-quarters and both tuberculosis and maternal deaths by a half. AIDs-related illnesses have been cut by over a quarter. In 1960 one in five children died before the age of 5. Today it is one in 20 and falling..

Developing countries have caught up far more quickly in health than in wealth. For instance, Vietnam has the same health as the US had in 1980 but at present, the same income per head as the US had in 1920.

 Despite the Great Recession of 2007-2009, poverty has plummeted. The Chinese government claimed last year that it had abolished poverty. In India a lot of progress has been made. It has also happened to various degrees in most Third World countries. However, Covid has slowed, some of these gains. Even so, sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest of the continents, appears to have avoided the worst of the disease.

Age of the peak child
Population growth is slowing. The number of children in the world today is the most there is likely to be. Hans Rosling of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute told the BBC, “We have entered the age of the ‘Peak Child’”.

Education is spreading rapidly for girls.  In Muslim Bangladesh, there are as many girls in school as boys. In conservative Saudi Arabia there are more young women in university than men- and their exam results are better.

In 2022, doubtless there will be war in Somalia, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Yemen, and on a reduced scale in Afghanistan and Syria. Small bands of Islamic militants will disrupt some West African countries and Mozambique But adding the populations of these countries together, war affects a tiny percentage of the world’s population.

There will probably be another year of “Cold Peace” between Russia and the West unless both sides can engineer a way out of the unnecessary Ukrainian imbroglio and find a way to work together- to roll back the expansion of Nato, to reverse climate change and to pull the rug from under the Islamic State movement Only ignorance and prejudice keep the two superpowers apart.

The EU and Brexit
The European Union has been hurt by Brexit but it continues to be the most peaceful, healthy, and successful part of the globe.

The pace of action against malaria, other tropical diseases, and global warming is out of step with what is necessary. But we know the solution to these three problems. At last, we can say that after years of propaganda and education a majority of the world’s people understand the basic issues and are prepared to support new initiatives.

There is no good reason why there shouldn’t be rapid progress in vaccine development now that scientists have shown what can be done if they are given money and incentives by governments.

Right after the ending of the Cold War in 1991, there was a surge in the growth of the number of states practicing democracy. But over the last 15 years, the numbers have dropped. But, if we look at the number of people who live under democracy rather than the number of states, the numbers look different. The countries which have become less democratic, excluding Russia and the US, are countries with small populations.

 At the end of World War 2 there were less than ten democracies. Now it is commonplace. According to the US’s NGO, Freedom House 45% of the world’s people are “free” and 30% are “partly free”. (According to its latest reports, the US has dropped down the league table of the freest countries, partly because of the policies of Donald Trump and partly because of the increase of “big” money in elections, that distorts the desires of the majority.)

That leaves only 25% of the world’s people who live under unredeemed dictatorships. Most of that number is in China. Taking China out of the equation then only a quite small number of people live under totally dictatorial regimes. Russia is an autocracy despite often being called a dictatorship. There are still a few newspapers, magazines, tv, and radio stations that are essentially free. So are the internet and foreign broadcasts. If Russians want to know what is going on they can easily find out.  Dimitri Muratov, the editor of the daily, Novaya Gazeta, recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for upholding freedom in Russia. Determined journalists manage to keep themselves and their outlets above water.

Anti-immigrant political rhetoric and voting may be on an upswing in Europe, yet most people have responded to the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees with unexpected equanimity. There was a surge six years ago from war-torn Syria but the numbers have decreased as fast as they once climbed.

Unfortunately, negative media coverage of immigration and political exploitation of it continues. The politics of countries like France, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden is seriously affected by this scaremongering. But it is not Europe-wide. In Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Finland, Portugal and Greece immigration is not a determining political issue. In the US it is not an issue in elections.

In the US, since the days of Martin Luther King tremendous progress has been made in advancing the quality of black lives on every front- civil rights, health, employment and politics.

 It has long been intellectually fashionable to debunk the value of foreign aid. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that in most poor countries the great advances in medical care would not have been made without it. Take the program to fight AIDS in Africa initiated by President George W. Bush, head of a party that has long derided aid paid for the successful treatment of over 5 million people. These days more and more of America’s richest men and women are donating large sums of money out of an altruistic commitment to help the poor get on their feet.

 Over the decades since the end of the Cold War, war has become less frequent and less deadly. It is true that in the last few years, mainly because of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, and Afghanistan, the number of fatalities has shown an increase but the world over the downward trend has continued. Today war is limited to only one relatively small corner of the world.

MIT professor, Steven Pinker, in his 2011 book “The Better Angels Of Our Nature”, brought to light a treasure trove of data proving that the world has become much more peaceful. Over the last 50 years, he wrote, deaths in war have fallen from an annual 300 per 100,000 people to less than 1 per 100,000.

International justice has also expanded its writ. There is now the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and before that international courts for deadly abuse in ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Although the former hasn’t gained the supporting votes of the US, Russia, India, and China it has made a lot of progress in convicting war criminals. On a number of occasions, behind the scenes, the US has acted as if it was a member.

Though the big picture is a good one it is true we can’t be as optimistic as when at the end of the Cold War Francis Fukuyama published his essay arguing that the future would now lead to “the endpoint of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as a final form of human government”. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but he did not foresee the turn away from democracy in both Russia and America. The first is ruled by an autocracy. Half the voters in the second are supporting the organizing of the vote for one. Polls suggest that half of that second group are prepared to support their aims with the use of violence. As Professor Yasvha Mounk has written in his new book, “The People Vs Democracy”, “Donald Trump broke just about every basic rule of democratic politics”. A Republican Party-led uprising could be the consequence.

 The ongoing malign and worrying influence of Donald Trump, the consolidation of autocracy in Putin’s Russia and dictatorship in China, tensions in Ukraine, IS atrocities, setbacks in the northeast and west Africa, the lack of nuclear disarmament, and the spread of new variants of the Coronavirus are important items of bad news but not as important as the good news.

We are outracing the Four Horsemen, extending the length of human life faster than pestilence, war, famine, and death can take them. One reason for the drop in warfare is that democracies don’t go to war with each other.

At the onset of 2022 we need a return to perspective. Our destiny is not down. The world is a far better place than it was at the end of the Second World War.

Comments 7


Banjaxed, you hit the nail right on the head. Snake pliskin as always reveals himself to be the typical entitled, self-important but oh so myopicly ignorant american. He is one of those who thinks that america will be great again. In reality, any "greatness" it might lay claim to was after WWII, understanding of course that that greatness remained totally stained by racial inequity that continues to exist to this day. SP believes that trump was the best president in the history of the country---absolute idiocy, but he has a lot of company. Mango mussollinni's maga crowd believe the sun is green and the sky is pink---- simply because they want evidence at all to support. America is on the decline and when the repubs put into full effect their election stealing mechanisms, the end of democracy in america is assured. As to Panama, my concern is the currency issues that will follow. One day, sooner or later, the american dollar will collapse. It is inevitable the way that the dollar has been used and abused by successive US govts. What does Panama do then? That should be the focus of any Panamanian govt. And let snake pliskin and his likeminded idiots wax eloquent about a failing democracy being driven to its inevitable future by insecure white nationalists.

13 days ago

The article is NOT targeting the president of the USA. He's not even mentioned in the article. You say a big portion of people here are from the USA. An even bigger portion of people here are not from the USA. How you come to the conclusion that I am angry or that you think that I implied you don't know what it is like in Panama is beyond me. You failed to understand the article and you failed to understand my comment. Your lack of comprehension renders any further discussion futile. Only an American could read an article about the state of the world and think it is all about them.

13 days ago
Snake Pliskin

@banjaxed. First, the article has targeted the president of the US. Why dont you direct your anger at NRP instead of me? Second, a big portion of the people here are from the US. And third, if you think that what happens in the US will not directly affect Panama, then you are delusional and misinformed. Almost everything that happens in the US affects most of the world. Then when you have this moron J Powers spreading half-truths and all out lies, it really turns my stomach. And by the way, have you bothered to read the Panamanian constitution or did you just decide to move there out of ignorance because it is in the tropics and you can show off to your friends how rich and arrogant you are? I live in Panama part of the year and I DO know what it is like there. I have been from Darien to Costa Rica and Bocas to Limones. Also Colon to Punta Patino and everywhere in between. I understand the Panamanian people and their culture. I do have the knowledge and the right to comment here as much as anyone else.

13 days ago

Snake Pliskin, Why would most people reading this even consider reading the constitution? I haven't. I live in Panama. I am reading news on a Panamanian website. I've no intention of ever living in the USA. The US constitution is totally irrelevant to me and the lives of most people in the world.

13 days ago
Putin’s Cock

When Trump talked to Putin, it was secret, private and off the record because Trump has been controlled by Russia for years and years since he began laundering money for them through sales of Trump Tower apartments using nameless offshore LLCs. Putin owns Trump and was giving orders. Also, Trump was sucking me when those doors were closed. I was there. When Biden talks to Putin, it’s public. It is simple as that. Show me a transcript of the Trump Putin meeting. You can’t.

2 weeks ago
Snake Pliskin

Most of the dummies that read this crap have never read the constitution. The US was designed to be a sovereign nation. I guess the people have forgotten what "sovereign" means. The present US government is selling us down the river. Look at the taxes here. They are worse than when We the People fought Britain to stop this crap. I agree with Dejon that Jonathan Power is a total loser.

2 weeks ago

When Trump talks to Putin, he is demonized. When Biden talks to Putin, he is praised. Jonathon Power is a total loser and knows nothing about history or the present.

2 weeks ago
The comments are the responsibility of each author who freely expresses his opinion and not that of Newsroom Panama.
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