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Living in an Invisible Golden Age

(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2016: Trump, Brexit and Bears, Oh My!", please click here.)

What if you were living in a golden age of safety and didn’t know?

What if no one else knew either?

What if the prison population, for a long a time growing at an unjustifiable rate, started shrinking? What if these drops in incarceration were accompanied by a drop in crime?

What if the number of people living in extreme poverty across the globe dropped from over 40% to 10% in the last thirty years?

What if you lived in a society where women, minorities, the disabled and LGBT people had gained rights unimaginable fifty, a hundred or two hundred years before?

What if the percentage of people who died in wars was at or near an all-time low?

What if the same was true of crime?

And genocide?

And slavery?

And torture?

But what if no one knew? What if no one cared?

What if everyone said that, instead of a golden age, we lived in the worst years in human history?

What if major newspapers on the left, (“Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?”), right (“A Night to Bid Good Riddance to a Crummy 2016”) and center (“2016: Worst. Year. Ever?”) asked if the current year was the worst in history?

What if defense secretaries and intelligence officials consistently testified on Capitol Hill that the world was a dangerous place? What if the President described the country as “American carnage”? What if the Vice President called the world a dangerous place? What if the minority leader in the Senate called these “challenging and tumultuous times”?

What if you couldn’t even escape the negativity by listening to podcasts? What if everyone from the FiveThirtyEight to iFanboy talked about despair? What if Radiolab did a whole show on nihilism? What if you couldn’t even escape this feeling listening to NPR without the interviewer describing the world as a “time of great worry and consternation”?

What if the country’s most respected comedians made the same declaration, like John Oliver closing out his final show of the year? Or Trevor Noah?

What if comedians felt this way about every year that preceded it? What if people felt this way about 2015? What if “2014 was not a great year for people”? And 2013?

What if every year you felt like Peter Gibbons from Office Space?

But what if it weren’t true? What if the facts didn’t back it up? What if you were actually living in an invisible golden age and no one knew?