Enlightenment Now, by Steven Pinker, is my current read. The book debunks a lot of our misperception around the good, old days. The facts support that the world is a safer, healthier, and fairer place than it’s ever been. The author is thoughtful and provides tons of data to support his worldview around human progress. It is a worthy read that will challenge your thinking.
About midway through the book, he offers one glaring exception to human progress – Accidental deaths.
According to the National Safety Council’s data, the leading cause of accidental deaths in America are cars, falls, drownings, and fires. These have been the leading causes since the early 1900’s and all are on a steep decline since the 1950’s. We are making progress, with one exception. Since the early 1990’s, a new accidental cause of death has been rising and rising quickly. According to NSC data, poisoning by solid or liquid is on a hockey stick kinda trajectory. Death by falls is down to 5 per 100,000 people/year. Fire, down to less than 1. Drowning less than 1. Poisonings? Up to nearly 15 per 100,000 people/year. Here’s the data behind the poisoning’s. 98% of the poisoning category are deaths due to drug/alcohol. 92% are drug overdose. 6% are alcohol. Of course we cannot track how many “natural deaths” or death by organ failure/disease are rooted in drugs/alcohol, but our instinct/gut tells us it’s a lot.
Now before we assume these statistics are driven by our youth, Pinker points out that the majority of deaths by drugs are driven by my generation – the boomers. We began this hazy movement in the 1960’s and continue to do so today. Our children seem to be simply playing “follow the leader.” So, we are making progress my friends. And we have lots of work to do. Actually, therein lies a solution. One of the best remedies to unbridled addiction is the discovery of good work that is worthy of your sobriety. Seems that no matter how enlightened our world becomes, it doesn’t mean much if we, as individuals, are not lit. So, friend, are you showing your family, friends, and clients, what it means to be good and do good? Are you a living example of an adult who is lit? Do your children see someone who works and lives with purpose and meaning toward a magnum opus you’ve authored? Are you becoming one, distinct and deeply connected?
We are making progress. There is much good news. Be optimistic with good reason. Your family, friends, and clients are watching and they, most likely, are not studying the world trends as much as they are yours. What do they see when they study you? Good…