Ideas for a better world in 2011

To start the new year off right, the Monitor asked various thinkers around the world for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We talked to poets and political figures, physicists and financiers. The results range from how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to ways to revamp Hollywood.

Bob Kerrey

BOB KERREY, president of The New School, a university in New York, and former US senator from Nebraska

Idea: Pick up a mitt and get in the game


Mr. Kerrey writes: My advice for anyone wanting to make the world better is to believe that you can. All available facts should convince you that the billions of individual and collective actions that are taken every minute are improving life upon this planet. If they do not, then no advice from me or any other will persuade you to overcome cynicism with action.

More to the point, if you believe (as I do) that for every bad choice made by someone or some group there are eight or 10 good ones being made at that same moment by eight or 10 other people or groups, then figuring out what to do is pretty simple. For all that is necessary is to pick up a mitt and get in the game.

All that is necessary is to muster the requisite bravery to do something you believe will make the world better and the odds are in your favor that you will. And if you discover that the old woman you helped across the street didn’t want to cross the street or if the good you try to do turns sour in your mouth, don’t despair.

Keep your sense of humor and try again. The law of averages is on your side. The only reasonable guide for us is to make as few decisions as possible when we are angry, when we hate, or when jealously or prejudice blind us. We need beauty to remind us of what is possible and we need to keep on trying to make the world better, not perfect.

• Contributing to this report were staff writers Gregory M. Lamb, Mark Clayton, Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, and Christa Case Bryant in Boston; Robert Marquand in Paris; Scott Peterson in Istanbul, Turkey; Ben Arnoldy in New Delhi; Sara Miller Llana in Mexico City; and Gloria Goodale in Los Angeles; as well as film critic Peter Rainer in Los Angeles; and correspondents Harry Bruinius in New York; Jane Arraf in Baghdad; Todd Wilkinson in Boseman, Mont.; Brendan O'Neill in London; Stephen Humphries in Los Angeles; Jina Moore in San Francisco; and Nora Dunne in Boston.

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