Leading article: There are still reasons for cheer this Christmas

The economic outlook is bleak, but may end up yielding some good

Share
Related Topics

Tonight, Christians around the planet will celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. But long before Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, these days in December were given over by human societies to midwinter feasting; the depths of the gloomiest and most barren season has always been an occasion for celebration. Today, most of us mix the two traditions. Religious observance dovetails with secular carousing.

Yet there will be a shadow over many homes this festive season in the form of a rapidly worsening global economic downturn. The spectres of unemployment, home repossessions and bankruptcy loom frighteningly large. And in the wider world too, ominous clouds cluster overhead in the shape of Islamist terrorism, starvation for the world's most desperate and potentially catastrophic global warming. For all sorts of reasons, optimism seems less abundant this Christmas than it has in recent years.

But we would maintain that there are still grounds for hope, even some cheer, this Christmas. One hopeful event stands out above all others: 2008 is likely to be remembered by historians not only as the year of the great economic meltdown, but of the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the world's most powerful nation. The American President-elect has made it clear that he will treat the threat of runaway climate change with the urgency it deserves. Providing Mr Obama is as good as his word, this is one compelling reason for every inhabitant of the planet to feel more optimistic about the years to come.

Casting around for other reasons for cheer, we might care to count our blessings as a species. Infant mortality is lower than at any time in history. Lethal diseases such as malaria, smallpox and cholera (despite its ghastly resurgence in Zimbabwe) have been eradicated in large parts of the globe. Human life expectancy is rising. These are not facts that make the news too often, but they affect us all profoundly.

And the longer lives that we enjoy are generally of a superior quality to that of previous eras. Here in Britain, we live in a more inclusive and equal society than ever before. Women are no longer formally treated as second-class citizens. Gay people have the right to enter into civil partnerships. Discrimination on the basis of skin colour or ethnic origin is legally prohibited. There is a great distance left to travel towards the destination of true equality. And some benighted parts of the world are even going backwards. But can there be any doubt that great progress has been made too?

Of course there can be no disguising that there is economic pain to come in the New Year. But we sometimes forget that uncertainty and even suffering are an inescapable part of the human condition; enduring them is part of being alive. And if the downturn prompts us to pay more attention to our family and friends, rather than the all-consuming pursuit of money, the downturn need not be so disastrous. It might even end up yielding some good.

It is also worth remembering at a time like this how remarkably resilient human beings are. Religious belief is vitally important to a lot of people. That will help them through the difficult times to come. Others will place their confidence in mankind's historic ability to listen to the better angels of our nature, even in the face of great adversity. So our advice for all our readers, whether religious or not, is to keep faith this Christmas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Recruitment Genius: Subscriptions and Marketing Assistant

£12500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A subscriptions and marketing a...

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial dedicated to the 52 people that were killed during the 7/7 terror attacks in London is cleaned in London's Hyde Park  

7/7 bombings: We cannot opt out of this fight, hoping that if we hide terrorism will leave us alone

Liz Kendall
 

There are no heroes in the Greek crisis that ended the euro

Steve Richards
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate