Pessimism is Easy . . .
Thursday, March 20, 2008
. . . . except, in the long run, it's not, actually.
(*WARNING!!!! Please don appropriate "Receiving A Portly-Dyke Lecture" garb now! I am consciously not going to be using my usual "in my opinion/experience", or "I think that . . . " language during this post.*)
Pessimism is easy -- in terms of Group-Support.
You're actually quite likely to find a lot of people who will happily join you in bitching, moaning, complaining, snarking, and whinging, and who will enthusiastically support you to bitch, moan, complain, snark, and whinge.
You may also gain some bonus "cool-and-arty" points by being incredibly, over-the-top pessimistic (but you're going to have to work very hard at this, as generalized Pessimism seems to have become the Order of the Day).
Pessimism is easy in the "making an effort" department, too -- because if "Life sucks, then you die" and "The world is going to shit and that's just how it is" -- then you are relieved of any responsibility to change anything -- including yourself-- because after all -- What's the use?
Pessimism is easy . . . . until . . . .
Until you have children, or an incredible idea for your new business, or you fall in love . . . . or you realize that maybe, just maybe, you might actually want to go on living, after all -- for whatever reason.
I'm not a Pollyanna by any stretch of the imagination.
I've seen my share of shit in half a Century.
However, I'm really, truly, and completely sick of hearing people conflate "pessimism" with "realism" as follows:
"I'm just being realistic! Human beings are fucked up!!"
Bullshit. I call bullshit to this.
Yeah, I've experienced my share of asshole-ish behavior from human beings, but if I'm really, truly, scientific and logical about my personal statistics, I've had my ass pulled out of the flames by other humans way more often than I've had my ass plunged into the flames by them.
That's just a statistical fact of my life -- and to say anything different is . . . . is . . . . just unrealistic.
I'd be all about Teh Pessimism . . . . if it had ever accomplished anything -- if it had actually saved me from heartbreak (which it didn't), or prepared me for a crisis (which it didn't), or changed the world (which it hasn't).
Face the facts.
If you really, truly believed that your economy/relationship/town/country/species/world/universe
was simply going down the tubes and there was nothing you could do to stop it, you actually wouldn't get out of bed tomorrow -- you wouldn't take your anti-depressants -- you wouldn't be considering looking for a lover/partner, or thinking about having children, or looking for a job, or ruminating about whether to change jobs, or wondering about what you might eat for dinner later tonight or for breakfast tomorrow, or pondering what to post on your blog, or whether you should start a blog . . .
. . . and if you really, truly believed: "Life sucks, then you die" -- you sure as hell wouldn't be reading this fucking blog!
See, I don't think that pessimism is really all that easy -- I think it actually takes a lot of energy to squelch that amazingly persistent: "But . . . but . . . I want to Live!" impulse that seems to spring eternal in the human breast.
I do think that Pessimism is lazy (lots of peer-support, no personal action required).
And dishonest. ("I'm going to bitch and moan as if this stuff matters to me while simultaneously acting as if it doesn't matter to me because it's pointless and we're all going to hell in a handcart.")
And ultimately -- Pessimism is ineffective. (Point me to a single thriving and sustainable culture that was firmly and consciously based in Pessimism, and I promise that I won't get out of bed ever again.)
I'm not advocating for some kind of Shiny-Happy-People-Holding-Hands form of Optimism here. I'm not going all Dr. Pangloss on your ass.
In fact, I'd like to throw the whole Pessimism/Optimism dichotomy right out the fucking window.
It has become so mired with the notion of some perverse warfare between black-clad nihilists smoking cigarettes under street lamps and appliquéd-jumper-clad moms sharing recipes at the park that it is now virtually inoperative as a structure for meaningful philosophical discussion. (And for that, Leibniz and Schopenhauer can be karmically consigned to meet each other again and again and again and again and again on the eternal-blind-date-from-hell, as far as I'm concerned.)
Instead, I want to look at what really works to do what it claims it wants to do.
I don't care if you call "expecting the worst": Pessimism, or a host of other names.
I don't care if you call "expecting the best": Optimism, or a host of other names.
I'm advocating expecting NOTHING, and instead, examining what we have-- what we actually ARE experiencing -- right now.
Sometimes we will realize that some of what we "have" sucks ass (an economic basis that relies on the abuse of workers and the destruction of the environment, high gas prices, mortgage crisis, tepid relationship, faithless friends etc.) -- but sometimes -- and perhaps many times, or even better -- most times -- we will realize that much of what we "have" not only does not suck ass, but is astounding and amazing (incredible choices about food, housing, clothing, friends, lovers -- computers that do incredible service for us and potentially, for the whole species -- actual possessions and relationships that enhance and expand us, etc., etc., etc.) .
This is not "Optimism" -- it's Realism.
Let's get Real.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:30 AM