Hope in the midst of despair

Despite a thicket of troubles, from deadly illnesses like AIDS and malaria to corrupt politicians and deep-seated poverty, a plurality of Africans say they are better off today than they were five years ago and are optimistic about their future and that of the next generation, according to a poll conducted in 10 sub-Saharan countries by The New York Times and the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Africans Are Wary but Hopeful, Poll Shows

Awhile ago I read Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari, a journal of his travels from Cairo to Capetown. He chronicles this attitude of persistent optimism, or at worst, shoulder shrugging, amongst grinding poverty and rampant disease. I found this attitude really interesting. Apparently humans can get used to almost anything, and if you've started at the bottom, there's really nowhere to go but up. Most Americans, however, have a standard of living far above most Africans, and we're scared as hell to lose it. Thus the near constant whining about gas prices, housing bubbles, etc. Most of us really have it very good here.

My grandmother used to say that whatever your troubles were, there was always someone worse off than you. This inspired me to have compassion for that person, and to pull myself up so as not to be self-indulgent in my own misery.

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