Hang Nguyễn and Andreas Dripke
Gratitude and optimism

We have every reason to look to the new year 2023 with gratitude and optimism. Instead of lamenting over overlapping crises, it is time to become aware of all that we have already achieved and what opportunities the future holds for us.

Many people seem to be under the completely false impression that our world is getting worse and worse. But in reality, the opposite is true, as can be illustrated by a few examples.

We all own a miracle device

We all reach for our smartphone an average of 30 times a day. That would be thirty times a reason to be grateful. Just a few generations ago, it was unimaginable to be able to carry such a powerful pocket computer with us at all times. With Google, Wikipedia and the mobile Internet, we have the world's knowledge literally at our fingertips, always available. A dream of mankind has become reality. With the same device, thanks to messaging, we can connect with our loved ones anywhere in the world at any time and for free. The grand vision of video telephony is now available with a swipe and a click, just like that and also at no cost to us. Moreover, we have a high-quality camera with us at all times: photos and videos are free of charge. Does anyone remember how we used to have to buy films and have them developed for money? As if that weren't enough, the smartphone relieves us of many routine activities or greatly simplifies them; let's just think of bank transfers, noting down phone numbers or navigating by car. Social networks allow us to share our opinions with the whole world more easily, quickly and uncensored than ever before; those who claim otherwise often distinguish themselves by trumpeting their opinions particularly loudly. The smartphone is basically a miracle device - but we've become so accustomed to it that we no longer feel the need to be grateful for living in a time when virtually everyone owns such a pocket computer.

Let's feel like emperors and kings

It is by no means only the smartphone that should give us cause for gratitude. Let's be clear: When we enter a supermarket today, we have more choice of food and drink than any king or emperor of say 500 years ago. Before we whine about high prices, let's be honest: Most of us today can afford more food and drink than is good for us. Let's look at culture and entertainment. In earlier times, a king or emperor could keep a court bandmaster and a jester for amusement. Today, everyone has access to a spectrum of cultural offerings unimaginable just 50 years ago through thousands of television and YouTube channels and music services like Spotify. And one may bemoan the difficulties of inner-city retail, but it is also one of the undeniable facts that the Internet is essentially the largest department store the world has ever seen. This list could go on and on. Let's take just one more example: tourism.

We travel all over the world

People may bemoan "mass tourism," but the truth is that it has made it possible for almost anyone to travel the whole world, or at least half the world, to marvel at foreign countries, to learn about other cultures. Let's face it: while war has been raging just a few thousand kilometers away from us since February 2022, most of us have taken a vacation and enjoyed some carefree time.

The best medicine ever

And anyone who complains to the doctor that it takes a little longer to get an appointment or that they have to pay an extra ten euros for a prescription should pause for a moment and marvel at medical progress. Previously unimaginable operations, from a bypass to a new lens in the eye to an artificial joint, are part of the standard repertoire of modern medicine. The mere fact that all these and many other operations can nowadays be performed completely painlessly under general anesthesia should give us reason to be grateful. All statistics show that nowadays we live longer and in better health than all generations before us.

No fear of the future

All these achievements suggest that we will also master the future. So is everything perfect? Of course not! But there is no reason to spend our lives in fear of today and dread of the future. The probability that the time before us will be better than the time behind us was is great, as the above examples illustrate. Therefore, we should look to the future with optimism. Not with the naive optimism of a child, but with the mature optimism of an adult who is aware of the qualities of his or her life and is committed to preserving and building on these qualities.

Our free democratic basic order

This includes preserving our free democratic constitutional state, which many take as much for granted as their smartphone. But neither of these things can be taken for granted. Those who constantly complain that "politics" is doing everything wrong should be consistent enough to enter politics themselves and thus build a piece of the future.

Manifestos of our humanity

So let's stop complaining, be grateful and practice creative optimism by doing our best to make the future even better than the paradisiacal conditions many of us already live in today. And let's stop interpreting "better" only in the sense of "materially better," thinking instead in terms of "humanly better." Let us look around us, recognize people who are not as well off as we are, and offer them help. Everyone will find something for themselves that will do good to others - and thus to themselves as well. Gestures of humanity are like manifestations of our own humanity.