Down the ages, the worst predictions of doom have usually been followed by long periods of peace and prosperity.
In Jesus’ time, many people thought that the world was about to end. There soon followed what the historian Edward Gibbon called “the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous” (the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries).
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, in the 16th century, is now regarded as a Golden Age (it included Shakespeare, Bacon and Raleigh). But at the time many people were deeply pessimistic.
What of our time? In general, the world has never been richer, healthier and happier, and there is no reason to believe this advance will not continue. Life expectancy is far greater than in previous centuries. World food crops grow, far outstripping population increase.
There has been a spectacular increase in human welfare. As in every age, we have our cult of doom. In our case it is “climate change”, the unscientific belief that rising CO2 will endanger our planet. Of course our world has problems. The threats to African wildlife, over-fishing of the oceans and their plastic pollution are real environmental problems.
These are very difficult but not without remedy if there is sufficient will. Political difficulties menace some parts of our world, including the Middle East and Africa. There is gloom about our own country under the present ANC presidency of Jacob Zuma. But South Africa under the ANC since 1994 has done better than I’d have predicted in 1984, given the horrible ANC of the ’80s. Zuma’s corruption and incompetence is not nearly as bad as that in post-colonial Africa, notably Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe since 1980, the lives of her people have got much worse. In South Africa since 1994, they have got somewhat better. The ANC conference in December yielded no panacea. Half of the six top posts went to looters. Cyril Ramaphosa squeezed in as president.
His powers are constrained. But he is much better than Zuma. We should all take hope from his election. All of our problems, including unemployment, crime, dreadful education, and corruption can be solved. Ramaphosa might not be able to solve them all but, in the real world, he is the best man to do so.