17.12.2015 13:30

The promise of a better new year

 

Guest blog by Alexander Stubb, Finland’s Finance Minister

December is often a month of reflection. As the holiday season approaches, the social and traditional media are filled with recaps of the year. Inevitably, they are filled with everything from hope to despair, success and failure, and good and bad. Such is life.

And such is the distribution of information in today’s global world. The flow of news is constant and the majority of people are able to watch world events unfold virtually in real time.

Over the years our brains have become more accustomed to processing an increasing flow of information. My children will have been exposed to more information as teenagers than I was as a young student at university. The internet beats a fax. A tablet is handier than a Commodore 64 (Kids, ask your parents what that was).

If life were about news headlines, it would suck. Market logic steers the news flow – bad news sells better than good news. Conversely, if the world were a bad place, good news would dominate the global discourse. Fortunately, life is not about the number of clicks generated by a sensational news headline.

I belong to the category of folks who have a tendency to see the silver lining in most things. I simply believe that the world keeps becoming a better place, every day. Fortunately I have science and fact on my side. 

We are living longer and healthier lives. Child mortality keeps decreasing. People are being lifted out of relative poverty by the millions. Poor countries are catching up with richer countries. Health inequality is declining. And freedom and democracy are on the rise.

Does this mean that bad things don’t happen? Of course not. My point is that a lot of it is about perspective, which we humans have a tendency to lose sight of. The negative flow of information blinds us from the lessons of the past and impedes us from thinking about the future.

This is especially true in my job, which often involves a series of difficult decisions. Over the years I’ve tried to find ways of coping with bad news. I have been able to soften the blow, but I hope I will never become immune to it. If that happens, I will have lost my soul.

I have never been into New Year’s promises, be they about starting a new exercise regime, eating a healthier diet, or drinking less alcohol. For me, a new year is part of the cycle of life, not an excuse for postponing a change for the better. Having said that, the new year is also about change.

December might be the darkest month of the year, but for me it’s also about finding light and hope for the future. It’s up to all of us. 

Let’s have a Happy New Year!

Alexander Stubb's column was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (December 2015)

Follow Alexander Stubb on Twitter (@alexstubb)

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