Monday, June 22, 2015

Releasing our Numbness

I regularly get little boosts to my Mojo from Max Roser from 'Our World in Data' who uses evidence to visualise how living standards have changed over the last decades, centuries and millennia. You have to regard statistics as questions rather than answers, but Max's questions really put a spring in my step. There are big problems in the world - but they are solvable. In many cases we have solved them before, and so can do it much quicker the next time round. The magic of being able to learn from each other. Max creates graphs relating to poverty, violence, health, education, the environment and much more.

He released this graph yesterday...


It is difficult to fully take in the progress in this chart. In 18th century Sweden, every third child didn't make it to the age of 5. In 19th century Germany, every second child died. Today, in industrialised countries child mortality is below 5 in every 1,000 live births. This is incredible.

Faced with enough trauma, we become numb to it. Anyone who has had a friend or family member lose a child before the age of 5 knows how awful this is. It has become quite rare. At 1 in 3, pretty much everyone with a reasonable circle of relationships must have experienced this regularly. It is no wonder many cultures choose to only name children once they have made it through the danger period. Expecting tragedy makes you prepare yourself through numbness. I have heard this given as a reason for depression in the first weeks after a child is born. Parents expect to immediately fall in love with their kid, and get very confused by a combination of ambivalence to the newbie and their lives being turned upside down.

Take some time to wander around ourworldindata.org. We do have lots of things to sort out. We do have lots of things that get us angry. It is very sobering realising how much we have to celebrate.

We are really, truly, deeply, fully, literally, legitimately and unequivocally lucky to be alive. Only by releasing our numbness, can we be free to experience the good stuff.

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