Progress Is Not Inevitable

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive.

Last night a far right-wing candidate won the presidency of Brazil - the world’s 4th largest economy.

Jair Bolsonaro is a deeply controversial figure. Whilst on the campaign trail he stated his admiration for Brazil’s former military dictatorship and defended their killing of political opponents. He has also said he wishes to take Brazil out of the Paris climate agreement, relax gun laws and made many misogynistic, homophobic and sexist remarks.

It’s a worrying time for those who believe in democratic principles and a deep concern for millions of minorities living in modern Brazil.

There are even fears that this could herald the end of the country’s 19 year tenure as a democratic state and a return in the near future to some form of authoritarian dictatorship.

As I say, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive.

The Germans have a great word for this feeling - ‘Weltschmerz’.

Welt=world, schmerz=pain. ‘World-pain’.

The closest we have in English is ‘world-weariness’ although Frederick C. Beiser, a philosophy professor in America, defines weltschmerz more broadly as:

“a mood of weariness or sadness about life arising from the acute awareness of evil and suffering”

We’ve all been there, but here’s the pick-me-up (as it’s Monday and we probably all need one).

The world is (for now) still the safest, healthiest, well-fed and peaceful it’s ever been in human history.

Take a short moment to acknowledge this good news (global data to support this can be found here).

Done? Great, now dismiss any sense of complacency and a belief that things will naturally continue on this trajectory.

Achievements on human and civil rights, representation, environmental protection, equality and peace building were hard won and will need to be defended and built upon with the same level of energy and discipline as those who laid these foundations.

So rather than wallowing in our defeats let’s look to the past for the energy to keep fighting for a fairer, more equal world.

As Dr Martin Luther King once warned us:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

We can do this.