When asked, “All things considered, is the world getting better or worse?”, a majority in the West answer 'worse' and 56% of young people believe that the 'world is doomed'. Despite this, whether it be extreme poverty halving since 1990, a 15-fold reduction in death from violence, or average life expectancy increasing by 30 years since 1960, the facts suggest this to be mistaken. Whilst pessimism seems to make all the headlines, recent studies show that such an outlook can lead to personal hostility, contempt, political disengagement and even support for the far right.
Does the West need a New Enlightenment to create meaning beyond providing its citizens with basic necessities, and reverse the current tide of pessimism? Has the West's relatively slow growth, versus the East's rapid emergence, radically changed our perspective of the world? Or is pessimism a key force that drives us to improve society and confront the greatest challenges facing us today?
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