Our world is half full

A constant flood of horror is our daily reality. Natural disasters, violence and poverty darken our view so it is perhaps understandable that so many people believe the world is crumbling right before our eyes. But they are wrong. For all the agony and despair around us, there is always a convincing case to be made for hope. Wars may be loud and natural disasters scary but they have not yet stopped humanity’s long march toward a better place.

Consider today’s news. There is a significant step toward peace in war-ravaged Sudan, the election of a new Palestinian leader is reenergizing the push for peace in the Middle East, and a natural disaster in Asia sparked an unprecedented outpouring of generosity. It is often like this; somewhere in the shadow of bad news lurks the good.

The largest relief effort in history is underway to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis. Nature’s indifferent power struck Asia and Africa last month in the form of earthquakes and tsunamis, killing more than 150,000 and leaving five million homeless. But the killer waves were followed by even bigger waves of kindness. Numerous countries, both rich and poor, are helping.

Even Afghanistan is sending aid to tsunami victims. Yes, Afghanistan. How can it not inspire hope to see one of the world’s most tormented and violent societies over the last 30 years find the strength to help others in need? There has been so much dying in Afghanistan, but compassion is still alive and well there. Perhaps it can survive anywhere.

Yes, it would be so easy to surrender hope in the face of so much war and neglect. But it would be a mistake. Every day around the planet, many more lives are saved than are destroyed. A month’s worth of killings by warriors, terrorists and criminals, for example, cannot match the number of lives saved in a single day by nurses, doctors, paramedics, firefighters, police and aid workers.

Clearly good outweighs bad. But we do not always recognize this, probably because acts of kindness do not excite us and dominate our attention in the way evil and calamity do.

Yes, there are far too many tears in our world, but there are also plenty of reasons to have confidence in the positive relationships that bind our species. Handshakes and hugs still quietly dominate global culture.

We must never ignore or deny the problems and failures that burden humankind. Awareness is necessary for progress. But we must also strive to remember that our world is not only half empty; it is also half full.

World News Editor Guy P. Harrison is at [email protected]