« Remedy du Jour -- October 22, 2011 | Main | Working Americans Are Still Taking It Up The Wazoo »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


“The evolution of the brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use” Arthur Koestler
I would add: ...an organ too easily manipulated.

Bill Hicks

What's funny is that I have several professional colleagues who routinely seek me out about stuff going on in the world because they KNOW that I will provide them with a pessimistic/realistic assessment to counter what they just saw or read in the mainstream media. Probably the only thing worse than being wired pessimistically in a world full of optimists is not recognizing the inherent bias among the overwhelming majority of those around you.


Bill Hicks
No - the worst thing is not recognizing the inherent bias in ourselves.

Alexander Ač

Ridley is dangerous!


It is undoubtedly the case that optimism reflects something selected for in nature, because optimists are more likely to go out and do things and reproduce, and over a long amount of time, optimists will outbreed and outnumber pessimists.

But pessmism never goes away, for a couple of reasons:
1) Pessimists understand that life at its core is problematic, so they are more likely careful and hesititant and take risk into account. As long as there are some of them breeding, they will always tend to survive especially in times of great upheaval such as these.
2) Life throws so much shit at you, eventually a certain number of optimists must surely change their mind.


I consider much of what is called Optimism, to be irrational "optimism". The St. Exupery quote "A goal without a plan, is just a wish" often comes to mind. Most people that start telling me how things will get better, may as well just be telling me that Santa Claus is going to fix things, so don't worry, because he has the easter bunny working for him, and the easter bunny is really smart.

I don't remember where I read this, but something I think related to our predicaments and often times to our own personal situations is "When Hope DIES, Action begins..."

Irrational hope is usually just magical thinking, creating a plan, taking actions, changing behaviors, sometimes can change an individuals life circumstance. Hoping often is just an excuse to do nothing, may as well just go back to waiting around for Santa Claus to fix the environment or give you a job or better income.

Rational optimism, perhaps is something different altogether from what most people do, it involves adapting to circumstances, perhaps just surviving and clinging to a lower SES or type of living and attempting to re-arrange priorities. Often times depressed people see a bit more clearly, but over time move toward victim identification, passivity, and learned helplessness. But clearly dissonance remains the key change agent, Irrational hope just promotes waiting for whatever that powerlessness external hope magic/or magical being to save you from your situation.


Betsy Rosenberg wonders how come some of us didn't get the "denial gene"


Are we the flawed...or are the glass half full folks flawed?

Never mind. We are all going down on this Titanic together!


The following entry is from Wikipedia, followed by some additional thoughts relative to today's post.

"Optimism is "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome".[1]

It is the philosophical opposite of pessimism. Optimists generally believe that people and events are inherently good, so that most situations work out in the end for the best.

Alternatively, some optimists believe that regardless of the external world or situation, one should choose to feel good about it and make the most of it. This kind of optimism doesn't say anything about the quality of the external world; it's an internal optimism about one's own feelings.

A common conundrum illustrates optimism-versus-pessimism with the question, does one regard a given glass of water, filled to half its capacity, as half full or as half empty? Conventional wisdom expects optimists to reply, "Half full," and pessimists to respond, "Half empty" (assuming that "full" is considered good, and "empty", bad)."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimism

I always thought that sort of "logic" about the glass half full/half empty was a trap -- I consider the contents of the glass to be at the half-way point, with none of that psychological baggage attached to it.

Christine Patton posted Magical Thinking, on her Peak Oil Hausfrau blog 3/5/2010. The first couple of paragraphs are provided below plus the link for the complete post, followed by a salient quote from the late, great and sorely missed Joe Bageant.

From Magical Thinking:
"Peak Shrink has an interesting post on The Tyranny of Positive Thinking, a review of Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. In it, she expresses the same frustration I've felt when dealing with our cult of positivity.

I believe that I can improve situations by the way that I think about them and how I interpret them. I believe that, by envisioning a positive future that INCLUDES the harsh facts about peak oil and climate change, I can work toward that future by coming to terms with the massive changes that will be occurring and taking steps to prepare for it. A positive vision helps keep me motivated.

However. There is a pathological brand of positive thinking that demands that we be happy at all times, that we neither admit nor experience pain, unhappiness or depression. In order to achieve this type of happiness, the high priests and priestesses of the cult of positive thinking make recommendations like "don't read the news" and "get rid of negative people."

In other words, deny reality, hide from reality, and don't let your friends and family experience any real emotions." The rest is available at:

"America doesn't like whiners. A whiner or a cynic is about the worst thing you can be here in the land of gunpoint optimism. Foreigners often remark on the upbeat American personality. I assure them that our American corpocracy has its way of pistol-whipping or sedating its human assets into the appropriate level of cheerfulness." - Joe Bageant


I wonder if intelligence requires optimism to survive?

With intelligence we are capable of understanding:
1) the universe will eventually go dark
2) the sun will age and engulf the earth
3) we will die
4) there is no god
5) the only purpose to life is for genes to reproduce
6) political beliefs and leaders have no influence on anything important
7) technology is just a flattering word for new ways to consume non-renewable resources
8) climate change will ruin the lives of our grandchildren and it's too late to do anything about it
9) the depletion of non-renewable energy will eliminate 9 out of 10 people within 50 years
10) more than 50% of our paper wealth will vaporize in the coming global depression

I know that I would be more energetic if I was ignorant and optimistic.


pessimistic people don't have children


Thanks for those links Unbound. A friend of mine, who has practically made a religion of determined optimism (several millions of dollars help) came back from her 25th college reunion this weekend and said it was the most depressing thing she has ever done. Apparently, everyone was divorced, stagnating or worse financially, and miserable.

If this microcosmic event is any indication, people may not yet intellectually acknowledge the excellent list posted by RobM, but their instincts are on red alert. (I would have added that climate change is going to ruin lives much earlier than our grandchildren's - in fact for some unlucky folks in Thailand, Joplin Missouri, Texas and many other places too numerous to list, it already has.)


Hmzzzzz, I wonder what happens when we see crime rates fall and social awareness of crime (through the media) rise ((c) Michael Moore, Bowling for Columbine), creating a climate of paranoia you see today. Maybe pessimism only has a place when it hightens awareness of percieved imitiate and mittigatable danger, but is has no place when it has to deal with long term abstract and unmittigatable ones.

That could be an evolutianary advantage allong these lines.

a) Awareness of the dagers in the here and now means I get the you know what out of danger. If a leopard in a tree is contemplating my fat to weight avarage and I notice it doing that, I run like hell.

b) If the leopard has seen my statue and decided not to risk a corronary, I on the other hand can stuff myself freely on burgers having an optimistic attitude on my distant future, due to the fact that in the long run I'm an optimist, and in doing so being the only one the survive a famine down the road.

Now mutiply that behaviour by and we're all headed for the proverbial cliff like the proverbial lemmings (who by the way are a lot smarter then that, they can regulate their offspring according to the expected food situation and hence seem to have more foresight than us intelligent beings).

Greetings, Ed

The comments to this entry are closed.