I think we're getting better. I caught on to this after I read French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut's 2000 In the Name of Humanity, which made the case that people really are doing better. As world populations grow larger and larger, extending from the primordial communities of dozens of people to nation-states with populations ranking in the hundreds of millions of people, the societies in which these people live in organize themselves on increasingly altruistic lines, with a strong collective identity that extends to a concern for the well-being of people. If this empathy works in nation-states of hundreds of millions of people, even billions, and if projects like the European Union are succeeding, surely it's not too much to imagine a successful project that will extend to everyone? We even care for the rights of animals, indeed talk of them having rights.
All well and good. But then, in 2005, Finkielkraut himself gave an interview to Ha'aretz in which he came off as pretty racist. Writing about the multiracial French national soccer team, he said that “People keep telling us that the French team is admired because it is Black-White-Arab, but today it is Black-Black-Black which is making all of Europe laugh. It’s true that you have only to apply a little affirmative action in the Blue team for the whites to play better, better, or as well as the blacks.” (He said he gave the interview to Ha'aretz only because he thought no one in France would learn what he said. It's available in the original Hebrew here.) When he was called, he later said that someone who was not him said it.
So. Is the first Finkielkraut right in saying that it's possible to expand the circle of humanity to include everyone? Or, is the second Finkielkraut right?