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Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now is similar to other books that I reviewed on my blog, in terms of its view of how we live now compared to the past.  There are so many people who think that society has not improved, things have gotten worse, even though factually that is absolute nonsense.  The book goes into great detail as to how society has improved and how, for example, 86% of people when surveyed consider themselves somewhat happy or very happy whereas, if you ask other people how many of the people around them are happy, they estimate that at 44%.  In other words, most people make the mistake of thinking people around us are unhappier than in fact they are.   

I will not go into all the details, because they are covered in this book and in other books, but by way of example, basically 200 years ago only 12% of people could read, the average person lived until the age of 30 and you were not considered poor as long as your family had a loaf of bread!  Nowadays, as he writes, people complain that their aeroplane waited on the runway for 45 minutes and they were delayed.  People are very upset about that, but they don’t stop to think that they no longer walk on the side of the road next to their donkey with pots clanging on the donkey’s side!  We have air travel, high definition TV’s, Internet, we can read, we earn more than human beings ever did before and more leisure time, etc.   People have mystical memories of the “happy and better” times when we ploughed the land and lived on the land forgetting that generally that job was given to women, it was absolutely back-breaking work and the second that jobs became available in factories as many women who could, got off the farms and into the factories rather than to actually do farm labour for a minimal reward. 

Yes, human beings still whine, complain and think that things could be better, and perhaps that is why we progress all the time, but we must never delude ourselves. We are living in the greatest times in history when a small fraction of people die for the same reasons they used to die – whether it is the murder rate, wars, starvation or malnutrition, etc.  More than 90% of the world’s population used to live in poverty.  Today it is 10% and declining and it is really confined to one or two African countries like the Congo.  In that regard we forget about other ways that life is better - for example that young South African men no longer have to go and spend 2 years in the Army doing compulsory military service.  Lets remind ourselves how many people ran away from South Africa to avoid that compulsory military service, including my cousins who left for Australia approximately some 35 years ago rather than have my cousin forced to be conscripted into the apartheid Army.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 25-Feb-19 Share on Facebook   Tweet It

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Liz  said:
on Monday 01-Apr-19 04:41 PM
This generation especially tends to focus on the negative as opposed to the positive things in life. It has become so easy to complain and walk around with a sense of entitlement rather than be happy with what one has.

Melissa van Tellingen  said:
on Wednesday 27-Mar-19 08:04 AM
Looks like a very interesting read. It's important that we stop complaining and start being grateful for all our blessings. We tend to stare at all the negativity that we seem to look past all that is great in life.

Michelle Smal  said:
on Tuesday 26-Mar-19 09:50 AM
It`s always good to be able to read a book that will give you some new perspectives over the seeing of life again. - I always believe to be grateful for what you have. Then you will be happy for most of the time in your life. It’s when people start comparing their lifestyles with each other that they become unhappy or want to have more. If you have all the necessary things in life you are more than a wealthy family and then have nothing to complain about.

Jadine Richards  said:
on Monday 18-Mar-19 11:16 AM
The human races desire for more is what brought us to the wonderful times. Complaining may be annoying but it definitely identifies and highlights the needs and gaps that society have. This is how innovation comes about. However, I think that we all need to just relax sometimes and not sweat the small stuff. A plane being delayed on the runway... not a train smash!

Daniella  said:
on Wednesday 13-Mar-19 12:17 PM
I think it will always be human nature to always 'want more'- We have come such a long way from back then however there will always be something to complain about. I dont really listen to people that complain about their flights being delayed because honestly those are "nice" problems to have. However if more people complained about the state of our environment instead of mundane problems we would probably see a change.

Ashleigh  said:
on Wednesday 13-Mar-19 09:09 AM
Unfortunately society is ungrateful and there will never be enough. Even though things have improved, so has negativity improved.

Zandelee  said:
on Monday 11-Mar-19 08:23 AM
I think that sometimes we as human beings can be quite ungrateful and we should learn to appreciate the little things in life.

Prishani  said:
on Tuesday 05-Mar-19 01:58 PM
It seems like an interesting book, I think we (People) complain so often that it soon just becomes an everyday thing and something we don't even take note of!

brumilde  said:
on Monday 04-Mar-19 08:11 AM
Very fascinating, although i feel that allot of people would place arguments forward with regards to the main subject. People evolve yes, hence the world needs to evolve with us. Some people are happy with what they have others will always want more. I do believe that there is a great truth to this book.

Fikile  said:
on Friday 01-Mar-19 12:30 PM
People always complain even about miner things, we still complain and to be honest it is boring to hear people complaining about most of the things that don't matte or even make sense.

Michelle D  said:
on Friday 01-Mar-19 08:35 AM
I am a very typical human being and complain about almost everything. Overall I am extremely happy with my life and I think most of the people are equally as happy if not happier. Complaining is just an easy way to find common ground with other people.

Victoria  said:
on Thursday 28-Feb-19 08:10 AM
I think we have all come a long way to get where we are today, moving forward should always be viewed in a positive way. We have all definitely grown as humans and improved our way of life, to make it more convenient and easier to live life. Life i think now a days is a lot better then it was way back then.

Angelique Jurgens  said:
on Wednesday 27-Feb-19 01:48 PM
Humans complained 100 years ago and will continue to complain until the end of time. It is human nature. We will never really be satisfied which is both a good and bad thing. It allows us to always want better and aspire to do better. Wanting more money, better or slimmer body, better home etc. What can be said though is that we certainly have a better and easier life than those who lived in an era before ours. I for one am grateful I did not have to grow up in apartheid like my parents. That alone proves I live a happier life with endless possibilities and way more opportunities than my parents had!

Megan  said:
on Tuesday 26-Feb-19 04:54 PM
I think individuals make it difficult for themselves when it comes to having a positive outlook. I think it's just easier to be negative about things and to have a book that can guide you out of that is definitely a good read.

Mathilda Du Preez  said:
on Tuesday 26-Feb-19 03:23 PM
This is so true, we complain about the smallest things where we have so much to be thankful for.
I’m truly happy I do not have to plough land.
I will definitely read this book.

Zandelee  said:
on Tuesday 26-Feb-19 12:49 PM
Another interesting book to add to my reading list. Thank you!

Jolene  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 09:20 PM
The book sounds very interesting. It is often good to be reminded of the progress we made thus far.

courtney  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 04:41 PM
100% agree with Alexis.
It's human to always have an opinion or always complain about everything.
I want to read this book, sounds very interesting.

Claudia B  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 02:42 PM
Love reading books, will definitely read this one as well.

Jadine Esterhuizen  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 01:05 PM
Sounds like an interesting read. Will definitely love to read this book.

Bianca T  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 11:04 AM
I am not a big book reader, but this looks like a very good book, i will read this. It is amazing to see how life has changed, i would have loved to live in the older days

Alexis  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 09:23 AM
I think that it is unfortunately human nature to always want more, to complain about everything regardless of how trivial....if one just had to stop and look around and see what one has, they will be quite surprised at how fortunate they are. And, if you are unhappy, make a change, do something about it instead of blaming others and life for it.

Bianca N  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 09:14 AM
We often forget how much we have progressed and how much more convenient we have made things like travelling, etc. We tend to always be looking for something to complain about rather than be grateful.

Michelle Smillie  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 08:57 AM
This sound like an interesting book to read. What is said in this post reminds us that we should always be grateful for life, and for what we have. Unfortunately there will always be some people who think that the world owes them something, and those are also usually the people who are never fully satisfied with what they have.

We should stop looking to the past and rather look to the future and not only realise the good that we have, but the good that we still can have.

Melissa van Tellingen   said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 08:37 AM
Looks like an interesting read. Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds like a great and positive read.

Angelica Canosa  said:
on Monday 25-Feb-19 07:12 AM
Incredible! I want to read this book. Its easy to stay in a negative mind frame, and reading a book like this helps puts things in perspective.


Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
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