This evening I had a very long conversation with a friend on Instagram. The notification tells me we sent each other over 400+ messages talking about topics ranging from death, humans as a species, and democracy. Now, I don’t mean to judge her about anything. She’s awesome. But, I think most of us hold this view of the world – that most people in the world are bad people, trying to crush someone else so that they can come up to the top.

Now, you might be thinking, “Who casually talks about democracy, poverty and the fate of humankind with their friends?” Well, I do. This has caused some friends anxiety, but I know they love me more or less, so it’s all good. Before anything, I should warn you that the article could challenge some of your preconceptions. I would urge you to set your convictions aside and read them with an open mind. I’m open to talking about all that I write here. You can send me an email or send me a message on Twitter.

For context, I talked to some people about a few absurd events in the last few days. It started when Rihanna sent out a tweet, drawing attention to the Farmers’ Protest that’s happening in Delhi. Sachin Tendulkar and many other celebrities tweeted in respose, saying that outside forces should not interfere with India’s sovereignty. This had me thinking, “How can the sovereignty of the greatest civilization on Earth be threatened by a single tweet?” The trolls went all out on Rihanna, with some going as far as saying past assaults on Rihanna was justified and so on. That’s what pissed my friend off and kicked off our evening-long conversation.

It is usual for anyone to feel that we are doomed. That humanity or homo sapiens, to be precise, is the worst of species. My friend went on to tell me that there is nothing worth living for in this world, more so here in the country. I can understand the frustration, but I think humanity, with all its imperfections, is making progress toward the common good. And while events around us might overwhelm us at times, it is essential to pause and reflect on the right things around us.

This essay attempts to point out a few misconceptions that we all have and provide statistical backing to say that the world is actually getting better (well, mostly) than we might imagine. Am I trying to say that we have no problems to solve? No, absolutely not. Am I implying that if things are left as they are, we would still be okay? No, not that too! So, what the fuck am I trying to say? I guess what I’m trying to say is, the world and its people are not as bad as we might think. I would talk about two broad themes – girls’ education, and poverty.

Poverty

Extreme poverty is defined as living under $1.90 per day, give or take. This is close to my heart. I really wish someone did something about extreme poverty. I think this is also the one topic that I talk about most with my friends, other than the obvious exchange of pleasantries. Let me ask you this, “Do you think more people are living under extreme poverty today?” You could answer this in one of two ways:

  1. You might say, “Yes, more people are living under extreme poverty today. Look at all these people not getting enough food to eat, kids not attending schools, families don’t have enough money to treat the sick, and so on.”
  2. You could also say, “No, more and more people are coming out of poverty. I am optimistic that people are in general doing better than their previous generations.”

The data suggests that the people holding the second opinion are right. Have a look at the following drawing. You might say that 734 million is still a lot of people. And you would be right in saying that. However, does that mean that the world is not making progress in this respect? I would argue that is not the case. Just you look at the number of people who have gotten out of extreme poverty, you would be impressed. That growth is exponential, which is excellent, in my opinion.

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Trend of people living under extreme poverty. Data from Our World in Data.

Girls’ Education

I’ll talk about both Girls’ Education in this section. Just a reminder, I do not want to imply in any way that we don’t have any more work to do. We still have a tremendous amount of work to to, to reduce inequity and level the playing field for everyone. However, I would still call progress as progress.

The percentage of girls that are going to school has increased over time. More boys and girls are finishing primary school. That is welcome news. Sure, there is much left to be done about inequity. For example, of those who don’t attend schools, 52% are girls. The truth is that we will never be fully done addressing these problems, but I believe we can do much better. But, does this mean we don’t have progress on this front? Absolutely not! Let the data speak for itself.

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Trend of girls completing primary eduction in lower and middle income countries. Data from World Bank.

Concluding remarks

I want you to consider this radical idea. ‘Radical’ anything sounds terrible, right? Yet, it is radical ideas that bring about change in society. Some ideas like equal voting rights for women were considered not too long ago. Today 193 out of 194 UN countries provide equal voting rights for women as men. The radical idea that I want you to consider is this – most people in the world are friendly. This simple can bring about tremendous change around us. Rutger Bregman also says so. Consider reading “Humankind: A Hopeful History” if you wish to learn more. He’s a historian who knows much more than me.

Look, the change will come, and change is coming. No matter who tries to delay the pace of change, people would always fail, for humankind has always found a way out. During war times, people did not think much about what a fellow man’s individual identity is. Everyone rallied around one another, supporting each other—the common goal is getting through the hard times together. So, breathe, sit back, and relax. No one tweet can rattle the foundation of this great nation. Does that mean one should not speak out against what they think is wrong? Please do, by all means. But, be ready to change your convictions when presented with opposing facts. Otherwise, what are the differences between you, a rational being, and a fanatic?

With that, I would like to close the essay here. Thank you so much for reading till the end. Consider buying me a coffee if you feel like supporting me. Kinda in an unfavorable situation right now. You can read about it here. I hope you get rich. Stay safe, take care of yourself, and those around you.

If you liked this essay, then you might like my book note on “A Man Called Ove”. Or maybe you can read “Dear IIT Kanpur”.

P.S. Let me know about the drawings. Are they any good?

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