The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sullivan: Things Are Better Than Ever. Why Are We Miserable?

Earlier this week, I went to a lecture given by Steven Pinker on his latest book, Enlightenment Now. I’m a huge and longtime fan of Pinker’s, and his book The Blank Slate was, for me, a revelation. He’s become a deep and important critic of the visceral hostility to nature and science now so sadly prevalent on the left and right, a defender of reason and the Enlightenment against the “social justice” movements on campus, and his new book is a near-relentless defense of modernity. I sat there for an hour slowly being buried in a fast-accumulating snowdrift of irrefutable statistics showing human progress: the decline of violence and war, the rise and rise of democracy, the astonishing gains against poverty of the last couple of decades, the rise of tolerance and erosion of cruelty, lengthening lifespans, revolutions in health, huge increases in safety, and on and on. It was one emphatic graph after another that bludgeoned my current depression into a kind of forced rational cheeriness. There were no real trade-offs here; our gloom is largely self-imposed; and is entirely a function of our media and news diets.


I think the causes of my misery are unrelated to the world at large. And truthfully, I'm not that miserable.

| Permalink


If you feel a little lowdown
There's no need to play the clown
Just jive around to some jazz
To banish your grumpy frown.

You could start here.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 12, 2018 7:31:59 AM

My three tortoises just emerged from four months of hibernation. They look very grumpy, even though they have been in a news blackout. If all goes well, they could live to be 150 or thereabouts. They just don't know how good they have it.

Posted by: Greg | Mar 12, 2018 2:43:38 PM