The (surprisingly upbeat) state of the world
A different perspective on the state of the world: four major areas where mankind's long-term progress is striking.
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Women now represent 40 percent of the world labor force, 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force, and more than half the world's university students. That's good both for the women themselves and their nations, according to Ana Revenga, codirector of the World Bank's World Development Report 2012, which focused on gender equality.Skip to next paragraph
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"In today's globalized world, countries that use the skills and talents of their women will have an advantage over those that don't," said Ms. Revenga when the report was released this fall.
It's far from sure that Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya will adapt full-fledged democracy now that they've deposed autocratic leaders in the Arab awakening It's unclear where continuing turmoil in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain will lead. But it's clear that the old order in the region is passing into history. The era of autocrats, many of whom ruled with tacit US support, may be ending.
"Societies are changing. They want basic freedoms," says Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House vice president for policy and external relations.
To be sure, there are other ways of looking at the world that produce a darker picture. War may not be declining so much as on holiday. Economic inequality is increasing worldwide, and the current economic crisis has thrown millions into the misery of unemployment. Patriarchy is alive and well in many nations. The number of the globe's free nations has stagnated in recent years.
Still, the positive trends outlined above are real. Wrapped together, what do they all mean?
At the least, perhaps they indicate the world is not an irredeemable mudhole. Some might argue that the glass half-full, not half-empty, perspective stretches credibility: "[O]nly pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious," lamented New York Times columnist David Brooks a few years ago. But in this cover story, the Monitor simply follows the indicators of human activity where they lead.
To paraphrase somebody else – Martin Luther King Jr. – the arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward ... something. If not toward justice, as Dr. King held, maybe toward improvement, or a brighter tomorrow. Somewhere better than today.