Why Do We Not Celebrate the Positives?

Recently, an article released in The Age newspaper was titled “Dip in thefts, drugs and family violence but police say drop in crime may not last”.

In 2021, the number of recorded offences in Victoria, Australia, dropped by 12.6% over the previous year. As a result, the police recorded 70,000 fewer offences. It was the lowest rate of offending (per person) that has been seen in the state since 2012.

The crime rates in Victoria may be lower than ever, but I am not too sure because the data at crimestatistics.vic.gov.au only goes back to 2012 when I look. Less property and deception offences. Fewer drug offences and family violence incidents.

Indeed, this is a cause for celebration?

Not so fast, the experts in the article say, given that “Victoria was in periods of restriction for significant periods of last year”.

Victoria Police’s Deputy Commissioner also seems to think that “it is likely that overall crime will increase as the community returns to normal”, but it’s not like the 154 days of lockdown in 2020 resulted in less crime than the 113 days locked down in 2021.

2020 nearly beat out 2016 for the most criminal offences recorded in a year, even though the lockdowns lasted 41 more days than in 2021.

If the lockdowns were responsible for the reduced crime in 2021, wouldn’t more crime be committed in 2017, 2018 or 2019 than in 2020?

I guess only time will tell. But maybe it is a good sign that a person in Victoria in 2021 was less likely to be the victim of a criminal offence than in any other year since 2012?

Why don’t we celebrate the positives when they occur?

I see it in my friends on social media and the patients I see in my consulting rooms. So many people think that everything is getting worse, and some even believe that the world might be ending.

Yes, the situation in Ukraine is scary. There also remains inequalities against people based on class, gender, nationality, sexual identity, ethnicity, age and disability. However, progress has occurred in many of these areas.

Despite this, in 2016, 65% of the US thought the world was getting worse, and only 6% believed it was getting better. In 17 other surveyed countries, 58% thought the world was either getting worse or staying the same.

People used to worry that overpopulation would lead to poverty and famine everywhere. However, even though our worldwide population is 8 billion now, the poverty rates have declined from 42% in 1981 to 8.6%. In addition, since 1900, our life expectancy has more than doubled, and obesity now impacts more people worldwide than hunger.

Yes, COVID-19 has been a challenge for many people and continues to be a challenge for many more. However, despite the pandemic, the economies in certain countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana, and China, became more prosperous in 2021 than in 2019.

Just because progress occurs, it “does not mean that everything gets better for everyone, everywhere, all the time”, Steven Pinker says. “That would be a miracle.” But unfortunately, while we are progressing in general and heading in the right direction, it is not a miracle. Things continue to be imperfect and always will be.

For more amazing facts about how things have improved and continue to improve, please check out books like ‘The Rational Optimist’ by Matt Ridley, ‘Factfulness’ by Hans Rosling, ‘Enlightenment Now’ by Steven Pinker, or any others like them.

For a more positive outlook on humans, please check out the excellent book ‘Humankind: A Hopeful History’ by Rutger Bregman. I also really like websites such as humanprogress.org. They highlight the positive stories worldwide that don’t get as much celebration in the news as they deserve.

Published by Dr Damon Ashworth

I am a Clinical Psychologist. I completed a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Monash University and a Bachelor of Behavioural Sciences and a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with Honours at La Trobe University. I am passionate about the field of Psychology, and apply the latest empirical findings to best help individuals meet their psychological and emotional needs.

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