April 22nd, 2013
Is there any better journalist in America today? The guy has won two Pulitzer Prizes. He was on Bill Maher last Friday. He’s proof that you can be motivated, honest and optimistic all at the same time.
I keep promoting his 2009 Outside Magazine article. It really is the very best thing ever written on how to communicate about issues broadly. It’s the best because it’s so concise and short yet packed with gems of wisdom gained by his first person experiences in Africa. Everyone needs to read the article. At least twice.
MOTIVATED, HONEST AND OPTIMISTIC
Let’s start with honest. He showed it repeatedly on Bill Maher last Friday night. So many people think the world is falling to pieces. It’s such a deeply held belief, particularly among environmentalists. Almost to the point that if you don’t think the world is falling apart, then you must be an anti-environmentalist. The result of having that belief is that if the world really is in collapse, it then means you have to be pessimistic about the fate of humanity, which then leads to being disillusioned and thus unmotivated. All of which he disagrees with.
The panel was agonizing over the Boston bombing and then talking about the sad state of, “the world today.” But he disagreed.
First, he pointed out that the entire nation went bonkers over an incident that killed three people while last week laws addressing guns that kill 30,000 people annually got minimal attention and failed to pass. But then he pointed out the bigger point — which is that violence worldwide and terrorist events are actually on the decline. Which is the point Steven Pinker tried to make in his major tome, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” But saying the world is NOT going to end doesn’t make for a good story. It just doesn’t.
It’s the same old problem the science world is suffering — selection for false positives (everybody loves a good story), and lack of interest in null results (nobody wants to know what doesn’t cause a disease). This is why an understanding of narrative dynamics is so important. Our world isn’t about the truth, it’s about storytelling.
And then they got on to the plight of women, which he has written about perhaps better than anyone else lately with his bestselling book, “Half the Sky,” and popular video game to go with it. The panel wanted to be depressed about the grim fate of women, but he refused. He said he’s optimistic. He said, “If you look at the progress on education, even on attitudes toward domestic violence, I think this is a battle we are winning.”
It’s not surprising he talks this way. Read his Outside Magazine article. He talks about how maintaining hope is so crucial. So his optimism is really the embodiment of what he says in that article. He’s amazing. He’s visited the bleakest of scenes of human suffering, yet has the brightest and most positive outlook on life. Everyone needs to share his perspective — working endlessly to solve the worst problems, but remaining optimistic throughout.