#2. Literacy Is at an All-Time High
Seriously, who the hell reads anymore? Go break into a random teenager's room and you won't expect to see a single book, right up until the moment the SWAT team hauls you away. The kids these days always have their hands full with an iPhone, an iPad, or a game controller. Angry Birds and Candy Crush have replaced Tolstoy and Hemingway. However you want to say it, people don't read anymore, because there's an app for that, and it's called movies, TV, and porn.
Marili Forastieri/Digital Vision/Getty Images
On the upside, there's no longer a need for Sex Ed classes.
The Good News:
First, we need to point out that we live in the most literate world ever. Currently, about 99 percent of American adults can read and write. But that's America -- a better question would be how the rest of the world is doing. The answer is also pretty impressive. Take India, for example, and its 1.2 billion people. Fifty years ago, only 18 percent of them could have enjoyed the Twilight saga. Today, over 60 percent of the country can enjoy literature's greatest love story. Worldwide as a whole, that figure is 84 percent.
So what are people doing with these new reading powers? At least one survey suggests that nearly twice as many Americans are reading novels today compared to 60 years ago. Unlike the imaginary ideal 1950s living room, Mom and Pop weren't seated 'round the fire exchanging copies of the New Yorker and ruminating on the works of Fitzgerald or Steinbeck. In reality, they were probably listening to the radio and talking about how great segregation is.
Knitting white power propaganda into doilies.
Oh, and those kids with their noses buried in some Internet-capable gadget? They're not just playing games and watching One Direction videos -- they're reading. Hell, how could a site like Cracked ever get this popular otherwise? Somebody's reading this stuff, we're sure of it. And you know what else they're doing? Writing. At a mind-boggling rate. Posts on Facebook, Tumblr, message boards, Twitter -- it all adds up to what they call the "new literacy." Think about it -- for most of recent history, written communication like that was reserved for the classroom. When our ancestors left school, only a tiny fraction ever wrote anything again besides the occasional letter, so English classes were thought of in much the same light as calculus classes today -- a bunch of crap that most of us will never need again. Not so now.
All of that practice -- informal as it is -- really adds up. And given the need for brevity in texts and on Twitter, many of us are almost capable of concisely articulating ourselves.
"u r teh nice show boobz 2 me plz lol"
#1. Worldwide, Poverty Is Dropping at a Shocking Rate
For decades now, we've watched commercials that feature some retired actor stumbling through some impoverished village in some undisclosed location to make viewers feel bad enough to donate money. Considering that we're mired in a worldwide recession, it's a sensible question: "Does any of this shit even make a difference?"
"Just throw the medical supplies over there. They'll make a great bed."
The Good News:
Yes! Even though lately it seems like the whole world is in a race to the bottom, the poorest of the poor are actually climbing out of the financial shithole. From 1990 to 2012, the number of the world's extreme poor was cut in fucking half. In case you were wondering, that would be the first significant global decline in extreme poverty.
Not bad, right?
"We did it! Let's all give speeches!"
And these aren't just statistical tricks here -- when they calculate this, they're not just counting income, they account for total living conditions -- infrastructure, schools, access to clean water, everything. A billion people have that stuff for the first time. And what's really encouraging is that this all happened three years ahead of the official estimates, which pegged 2015 as the soonest such a lofty goal could be achieved.
So how did this happen? International aid helped, but the big jump has been in the increased participation of previously isolated countries in international trade. You know how people are always complaining about how "they're shipping our jobs overseas!" Well, this is where they went -- to people who previously had no jobs at all. And that boom that swept across China and India is expected to continue in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Rwanda -- all of the places you previously only heard about in the context of heart-breaking ads begging for donations. If things continue at this pace, countries like Nepal and Bangladesh would likely see extreme poverty shrink to near-nonexistent levels.
Then we can finally complete our overall goal of supplying every family with a pool, so they'll stop asking to use ours.
Now obviously anything having to do with the economy is subject to change, often abrupt ones that occur seemingly at random (for instance, China's economic explosion is due to slow down soon), but we're keeping our eye on the overall trend here. And it's looking like as many as 40 countries might be able to eliminate extreme poverty within a few decades.
So we know it's hard to see it in the daily wash of awful headlines and celebrity scandals, but it's undeniable: We're slowly getting this "civilization" thing figured out.
The easiest way to reach J. is right here. When not writing for Cracked, you can find J. working on an upcoming book project, possibly in a major metropolitan area near you ...
Related Reading: Down for some more unreported good news? The Gulf of Mexico is doing awesome and AIDS is on the run. You're welcome. For that, and for this incredible story of a school teacher stopping a shooting with a hug. Confused about why the world SOUNDS worse than it really is? Click here.