Ukraine, Gaza, Gazza, ISIS, celebrity paedophile allegations, Ebola – the news of the last few weeks would have made Billy Joel drastically extend “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. Each day’s headlines have been infuriating, horrific and offensive by turns.
But there’s a brighter side of recent events, too, somewhat neglected by the attraction of horror for news editors. So, in the spirit of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, here are a few Reasons To Be Cheerful.
1) We still live in a society wealthy enough for it to be fashionable to tear holes in your clothes.
2) The long battle to restore the losses of the financial crisis is being won – record levels of employment, hordes of new entrepreneurs and annualised growth of 3.2 per cent despite all the challenges.
3) More young people than ever before just got into university. Yes, yes some of them might earn more as a plumber but this is what they want to do with their lives – and they’ll have an awesome time.
4) Exams have got harder but pupils stepped up to the challenge – Gove’s analysis of human nature that if you ask more, you get more, is true.
5) The challenges of austerity and the financial crisis have acted like a tough exam system – bringing out the ambition, imagination and individualism of “Generation Right”. Record numbers of school leavers want to start their own companies and believe hard work is the route to success.
6) Capitalist democracy still provides the best way to survive disease, floods, earthquakes or plagues of locusts.
7) Scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast, have just invented a new gel to destroy hospital superbugs.
8) The generational fall in crime continues – whether you think it’s a broad social inevitability, like Steven Pinker, or that it’s down to wise policy, it’s good news. All of us are safer from violence, robbery and a host of other miseries.
9) As the doom-mongers note, we live in an age of many wicked ideologies. Totalitarianism with a red tinge still brutally controls China. Putin’s expansionist neo-Tsarism stalks Eastern Europe and the Caucusus. Violent Islamism wracks Iraq, Syria and Gaza. And yet, none of these creeds has come anywhere close to attracting mass support in the UK or the broader West – we may disagree about much, but at heart the broad consensus of liberty still holds. It may be imperfect, but consider how preferable it remains to the alternatives.