Ideas go in and out of fashion. If the comments boards of newspapers’ websites are anything to go by, misanthropy is very much in vogue. “It would be better if we were wiped out” people sniff, angered by the news that the Conservatives are permanently closing the north, or that Shell are drilling for oil in the Louvre.

Awareness of society’s more iniquitous tendencies often expresses itself as a deep, brooding hatred of the human race.

I don’t condone every act committed by one of our fellow men or women - I doubt I’ll ever fully come to terms with the popularity of the stick-out tongue emoji - but I can’t bear this kind of dejected, egotistical self-hatred. It’s become the fashionable response to everything from a new Justin Bieber album (“Just kill me”) to the pollution of the Pacific.

A dose of self-doubt is vital, but right now we’re glugging it as though it were a particularly prized bottle of Chateauneuf du Pap. We’re toasting with self-doubt, we’re spraying it over one another, we’re washing down canapés with it.

The headstrong purposefulness of the past - the certainty of the Victorians, the can-do progressiveness of early-20th century America - has vanished.

Now, I’m not advocating returning to a time when nations confidently and wholeheartedly believed that enslaving one another was in their genuine best interest.

Nor do I long for the kind of chest-thumping autocrat who renames the days of the week after his favourite horses. But to foster a culture of self-hatred is surely bound to have negative consequences.

If I woke up every day thinking that I was no more than a pestilent mutation hell-bent on strip-mining the planet of its resources, I wouldn’t get further than my bedside table before I broke down in a fit of tears.

Surely if we’re to overcome the enormous global problems we face, we must embrace our humanity rather than wish we were all dead.

“Why are people so cruel?” they wail. “Why haven’t we solved violence, hunger, and greed?”

But these problems are immensely difficult to overcome. It’s worth remembering that we’re the first-ever global civilization, connected by unprecedented blending of trade, culture and language. Give it time.

The internet is helping people realise their similarities, despite the propaganda of governments. Soon, even nationality may lose its divisive force. We probably won’t be gathered in an enormous circle singing Kumbaya, but nor will we allow Tony Blair to kill thousands of Iraqis because it’s Wednesday.

Ask a cat what it would do for the good of feline-kind, and the answer would be sod all. You won’t catch a sparrow going out of its way to recycle, or to spend more of its sparrow-credits on higher-priced worms so that the sparrow-farmers get a fairer wage.

But people do this literally everyday. So the next time America elects an enthusiastic Klansman, or Google makes oxygen subscriber-only, go ahead and lose your rag - just don’t lose your faith in humanity. The world might depend on it.



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