Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Force for change

Dawn or dusk in 2017? 
We’re told it’s been a terrible year.

Proof: The Force left Princess Leia! The death of the Princess, or rather Carrie Fisher’s passing four days ago, was one of many sad events in 2016 that might easily get lost in the cacophony of civil wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, political unrest, and environmental decline. 

With that backdrop our fictional Leia was a symbol of hope against evil and bedlam - just the kind of dystopian pap we’re fed by the popular media and the pundits who feed on it. The truth (uncomfortable as it is with simplistic drivel) is more nuanced, at least from a crime perspective. In fact, in much of the developed world, this year was unexceptional for crime. 

Except for an explosion of gang violence in Chicago, crime continued its decades-long decline. There was a slight uptick in a few cities this year (Boston had 46 murders this year compared to 40 last year), possibly a symptom of cartel-fuelled opiates and heroin on city streets. Still, most cities reported stable or lower crime rates.


New York City had 4% fewer homicides, putting the lie to the idea that crime is rising due to the Ferguson Effect. In fact, New York's 330 murders this year are pale compared to 2,260 in 1990.

NYPD anti-terror officers - the new reality of police departments in 2017
Murders in Montreal declined to 19 this year while (as in the US) a few Canadian cities did have slight crime blips. Yet on whole the 2016 crime story is uneventful. 

So what of the headline bedlam? Maybe it’s the global story that bleeds?


It is true that narco-crime continues to torture too many places, especially Central America. But consider the UN Millenium Development Project. Over the past decade project success is staggering: 
  • People with access to better drinking water - up from 76% to 91%  
  • New HIV infections - down 40%   
  • Mortality rate from malaria - down 58% 
  • People in poverty living on $1.25 a day - down from 50% to 14% 
  • Undernourished people - down from 23% to 13%
Ill-informed politicians tout the mantra of gloom and social doom but they are not the brightest lightsabers in the galaxy. No doubt 2016 has seen tragedy, yet there are great things underway. With condolences to our beloved Princess, the Force of positive change is with us if we choose it. 

Here’s to 2017. Happy New Year! 

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