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”We are becoming afraid of the world”

– We need history and statistics in order to sort out our own mental bias, said Johan Norberg, historian of ideas, author and columnist, when he visited Narva on 2 February.

He was referring to how we apprehend the world when the messages that reach us every day are that everything is about to go to pot. Genetic change is slow, and does not keep up with developments in civilisation. This makes us particularly sensitive to what we perceive as threats. Brexit, financial crashes, migration crises, unemployment, famine, war and environmental disasters are reported in the news flashes that we wake up to and go to sleep with.

Using facts from institutions such as the UN, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, Johan Norberg demonstrated that things are now better than ever for almost everyone on our planet. Neonatal mortality, extreme poverty and illiteracy are falling. He also described the progress that has been made in the environmental field, that the giant panda is no longer endangered and that there is peace in Colombia. In the shadow of the media the world is being saved.

However, he suggests that if we have the feeling that the world is collapsing, then it is this fear that we have to be afraid of. Frightened people are not tolerant. Fear triggers an authoritarian reflex.

Lena Mellin of the Aftonbladet newspaper also participated in the lunch discussion, describing the media’s conditions and the importance of contextualising the news. A well-informed, talkative audience also participated and was able to leave the seminar with a campaign badge with a customised message: “Be an optimist”. Discussion leader was Göran Hägglund.