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Head To Head match-up: > Optimism VS Pesimism

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message 1: by Ed (last edited Dec 19, 2012 03:05PM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments My biggest pet peave is with people who are continually stuck in this loop of "Woe is me - the world sucks, so why should I even try?!?"

I think being skeptical and pragmatic are very important qualities - and it promotes a very healthy outlook. But fuck, that is far different from having a constant cynical/pessimistic view of the world that colors your judgements on every fucking issue.

Where does being down on the world get you? I mean what is the point? Do people think that having low expectations of mankind shields them from disappointment?

Maybe it does, but is that really living? When you are not only expecting the worse in everything and everyone, but you are actully LOOKING for the worse in everything and everyone?

Fuck that - I don't need that bullshit!

I think I need to go beat the shit out of some emo kid now, just to get this grief out of my system!


message 2: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 218 comments Mod
I know you are referring to the world in general, not just the internet world, but I quit conversing in another forum recently because it was far too depressing. Average Americans whining about first world problems is annoying to me. I know that in America there are still many problems and not everyone lives the high life, but there are some huge problems out there in the world.

Also, I think people who just assume everyone and everything sucks really have not lived that much. Some people are crappy, but I have spent the past five years traveling extensively and I have met humans from all walks of life... and I'll tell you... overwhelmingly the people I have met are good people.


message 3: by Ed (last edited Dec 19, 2012 04:36PM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments No doubt, most people are good. Everyone has some problems and some people are truly psycho, but people who wallow in self-pity just for the sake of wallowing need to cheer the fuck up!

Life is Good and the world is actually VERY fucking beautiful. Humanity is full of beauty. It is full of love.

Can I get an "AMEN"???

:)


message 4: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson I think what you call pessimism is what I call fatalism or defeatism.
I am definitely more pessimist than optimist (I, like everyone else, consider myself a realist; but that should actually go without saying-- people who claim not to be realists are actively saying they believe something unrealistic!), but I don't care for fatalism.

I think you should try anyway, so long as what you are trying for is important or desirable and the price is one you're willing to (or have to) pay.

But I hate optimism.
It's a wishy-washy view that is openly and consciously an assault on reality.
It's an evangelical religion that assumes the cause of everyone's sadness is sadness itself.
It is the root of every obnoxious religious sect, every stupid self-help book, all the punch-worthy pseudo-hippie quirkiness that's all the rage on TV, every one of those wretched memes that plagues my Facebook page (I like the cat pictures, but enough with the fortune cookie "wisdom" BS).
It's an opiate.

While pessimism in its most extreme form leads to not bothering, optimism is all about not even noticing! Or noticing and figuring, "Oh well, everything works out in the end."
Can you understand why the abysmal logic alone of such comments fills me with psychotic rage?!
It's not because I'm a negative person (that's a non sequitur); it's because I hate stupidity!

Plus I don't really believe anyone is a full-on pessimist or optimist.
These are simplified labels.

But it's, like many things, not as equivalent as the simplistic minds make it.
Pessimism is stigmatized and optimism is glorified!
The result is a status quo that focuses more on burying problems than acknowledging they exist!

The labels are shallow.
I'm a pessimist in character... but I consider policy choices rationally and have a relatively optimistic view of the common human's potential (I'm pessimistic about whether he/she will understand it and have the chance to use it).
Most optimists I know use their "positivity" as an excuse to be callous and careless-- they show contempt for those who aren't as happy as they, regardless of the circumstances (because their problem is that they need to get happy, right?).
At least the fatalists I know have reason to be so-- they've seen a lot of bad in their lives and not much good; it's shaped them.
Optimists just equate what is and what "should be."
It's willful ignorance-- they don't even think of themselves as realists.


message 5: by Gary (new)

Gary | 134 comments To turn this on its head.

The optimist expects things to go well, so bad news is a disaster, good news is mundane.

The pessimist expects things to go badly, so bad news is status quo while good news is a pleasant surprise!

:-D


message 6: by Tanjlisa (new)

Tanjlisa Marie (tanjlisamarie) | 234 comments I think we speak things into existence so therefore I, as a rule, do not speak or think negatively. I expect good things to happen to me and for the most part, they do. I am not crazy so I do know bad things happen. But when they do, they are not disasters, but minor hiccups on my road to success.


message 7: by Rock (last edited Jan 04, 2013 11:41AM) (new)

Rock Ism | 284 comments Mod
I'm pretty pragmatic. I know bad shit happens. So when bad shit happens and it gets all this news coverage, I don't really see any need to gawk at it.
And when bad shit happens in my life, I just deal with it and move on.
But some people love to dwell on the bad shit. I really don't see any practical reason for that. It is probablly because they like it when bad things happen. Which means they are pretty fucked in the head, if they like it when bad shit happens, whether the bad shit happens to them or whether it happens to other people. Bad shit should not make you feel better.


message 8: by Martin (new)

Martin | 37 comments The problem with spending a lot of money
Is that you have little money to spend.
The problem with starting a relationship
Is counting the days until its end.
The problem with pessimism, it just doesnt' cheer you
When optimism doesn't steer you right.
As sure as night follows day, day follows night.


message 9: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson William wrote: "@ Robb. I would call myself mostly optimistic but I am far from blind to the evils of the world. Soemtimes I'm even pessimistic about certain things. But the fact is that optimism has the power to inspire and to create whereas pessimism only results in indifference and decay. Because, if you have no hope anything will get better, why even try? "

I don't think that's fact at all.
Optimism leads to complacency and recklessness alike, neither of which are positive (even if they are "inspiring."
Pessimism leads to caution and conservation-- both of which are positives in some cases.

Obviously a decent society requires both and the real problem is when one view gains too much power.
Too much pessimism is at least as devestating as too much pessimism.


message 10: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson William wrote: "I agree balance is needed and if one has complete optimism to the point of recklessness one will almost certainly fail. I just feel that more is achieved if in the weigh of optimism and pessimism a..."

The "unpleasant to be around thing", how it plays out, is the evidence for why an optimistic world is at least as horrifying as a pessimistic one.
Criticism is just as unpleasant as whining, and to the optimist it makes no real difference.

And dying civilization?
From reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the conclusion I come to is that the lower castes should have destroyed those in power faster, before they could lay waste to the ecosystems that sustained them.

It's the complacency of optimism that leads people to accept the rule of those who waste their resources and oppress them.

Is there really a difference between the apathetic peasant, beaten down to the point where he no longer fights oppression, and the dingbat who says "things will work out" while playing down the suffering brought on by the regime?
No. They are both useless.
Which one is more annoying is a completely subjective thing.
But I'd give the edge to the pessimist. Because the optimist is like the raven on Animal Farm, a liar who spreads complacency. Optimism is infectious. Pessimism just drives people away.
Cognitive biases at work.

Think about the biggest long-term problem we currently have.
Global warming.
A crappy pessimist figures there's nothing we can do.
A crappy optimist; well, he's going to say there's nothing to worry about. Either it doesn't really exist or our lovely corporations will fix it without any effort.

What problems do these individuals pose?
The pessimist... useless... but also not going to stop you. He's given up, doesn't care.
The optimist; that jackass is making the arguments for the people keeping things from getting done!

I contend that the DIY liberal is a bigger problem than the poor guy who shops at Walmart.
The DIY liberal is the one who created a market for greenwashing and made an argument for keeping government regulation out of the picture.
The Walmart pessimist is just trying to get by! If you make it affordable for him, he'll be more responsible but he'd rather people shut up about their superiority!

In other cases, maybe pessimists could be more dangerous.
But the fact is our society has an overabundance of optimism.
It's corroding empathy and suppressing critique. It's killing us. If I were more of a pessimist, I'd say it was definitely going to kill us.
But I'm a realist more or less... so I say it just has a rather high chance of ruining civilization as we know it unless we make some serious changes.


message 11: by Gary (new)

Gary | 134 comments Well said Willian. In the end optimism and pessimism are forms of delusion, and though a certain amount of thinking positive can help, in general its those with realistic expectations that most avoid both self doubt and undue confidence.


message 12: by Ed (last edited Jan 14, 2013 03:41PM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments There are a few reasons why I prefer optimism over pessimism.

For starters, an optimist is more likely to be more happy, have more fun, be funner at parties, laugh more, live longer, etc.
But also, an optimist promotes a positive creativity. An optimist's mind is searching for answers, possibilities, solutions, etc. A pessimist is looking for reasons not to try, reasons not to care, excuses, etc.


message 13: by Ed (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments Robb wrote: "I contend that the DIY liberal is a bigger problem than the poor guy who shops at Walmart.
The DIY liberal is the one who created a market for greenwashing and made an argument for keeping government regulation out of the picture.
The Walmart pessimist is just trying to get by! If you make it affordable for him, he'll be more responsible but he'd rather people shut up about their superiority!
"


So how exactly does this make the diy liberal more of a "problem" than the guy who shops at wal-mart???
And who is the diy liberal more of a "problem" FOR?
Is the diy just more of a "problem" for you?
Or, is the diy liberal more of a "problem" for society?

And who is this diy liberal? I've never heard this term before? Are there diy conservatives as well? Or what about diy independents (which is what you would probablly consider me)? Are all diy'ers the 'problem'? Or is it just diy liberals you take issue with?


message 14: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson I have come around to the idea that perhaps defeatism is as bad or worse than complacency. This is mostly due to a Slate article on the fall of the Israeli Left.
The reason being that the Left's position on Palestine (two-state solution) is popular... but they always lose in part because of the perception that it is a moot cause.
The complacent would not adjust their voting behavior on that account and would continue to support Labor due to ideological agreement... The defeatist will switch to Likud on the assumption that a more right-wing shift is necessary (equivalent to the old US view that there was nothing wrong with the Natives per se but they had to be destroyed or kept in line, or they'd kill us all).

Though I could easily see a situation where complacency is worse (global warming, where we will reach an actual absolute point where it is physically impossible to prevent problems and only possible to adapt).

I've also determined that the problem with realism is indecisiveness.
A hyper-rational look at the world will make it nearly impossible to prioritize or pick a choice.

But in the middle areas where most of us are, I still think the optimists are currently the worst.
I think it's because moderate optimism more logically pulls people toward complacency because of the pleasure such an outcome brings.
The pessimist has the two pleasurable choices of either fixing the problem (or trying and being able to take credit for trying) and giving up hope (freeing them to stop caring and move into escapism).


message 15: by Robb (last edited Jan 23, 2013 12:41PM) (new)

Robb Bridson William wrote: "I look at it like this. I'm trying with every fibre of my being to be a writer. If I did not have the optimism that I might be able to make it, I simply would not be able to summon up the willpower..."

I think that statement illustrates just why a lot of the discussion of optimism and pessimism gets absurd really fast.
(Remember, all this debate aside, I really don't believe the absolutes exist or that they are lifelong, universal character traits-- I think they're more mood-related and subject-specific)

Think about great writers, great comedians, great entertainers, great businessmen... anything.

Eventually in your list, you are going to find people who cannot be accurately described as optimists, some who are really quite pessimistic overall.
If optimism were a requirement to accomplish anything, how would we have so many philosophers who have such dark views of humanity? Where do all the writers with the bleak outlooks come from? How do we get the comedians who have the "might as well laugh at the world because what else can you do?" philosophy?

Obviously having a dark outlook, expecting the worst, and believing in the futility of action does not prevent one from producing a finished product, even being successful with it.

For every "I can do this" optimist, there's a "Things will work out, I have all the time in the world" optimist.
For every "I can't do this" pessimist, there's a "I might as well do this... what the hell else am I going to do?" pessimist.

Addendum: Ironically, I believe the argument I just made classifies in the meta- sense as optimistic.


message 16: by Gary (new)

Gary | 134 comments Robb wrote: "Remember, all this debate aside, I really don't believe the absolutes exist or that they are lifelong, universal character traits-- I think they're more mood-related and subject-specific"

Well presented.

Absolutes in mathematics are infinities and if physicists know anything about infinities it is always to mistrust them. Well, almost always :-D


message 17: by Gary (new)

Gary | 134 comments William wrote: " I can't really say anything bar that pessimists tend to be a pain to be around, which is not much in the grand scheme of the arguement but is perhaps a small something."

Believe me William, optimists can be infuriating too. :-) Especially when they can't seem to understand other people being sad and urge them to "just cheer up".


message 18: by Ed (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments "Just cheer up" That's what I think everytime I see some fucking teenage Goth moping around acting as if the entire world is so cruel and terrible just because they woke up with a new pimple on their nose.

I can't stand that self-defeating/self-pity shit. If they want a reason to think the world is miserable then I would be more than happy to slap them upside the head with a wet chicken!


message 19: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Ed Wagemann wrote: ""Just cheer up" That's what I think everytime I see some fucking teenage Goth moping around acting as if the entire world is so cruel and terrible just because they woke up with a new pimple on the..."

Teenagers are more emotional due to body chemistry, less experienced due to age. I think they should get a little leeway in the self-centeredness department.
I think most people who are honest with themselves will recognize that as teens they were less rational and made bigger deals out of their own personal crises than necessary.
Unless they grew up under unusual circumstances...

Plus how do you know they don't have something to be truly depressed about? Do you interview them?

Frankly I find the adamant "cheer up" people worse. There's a certain mean-spiritedness to it.
It's almost like they're really more pissed off than happy.
They remind me of the people who are convinced there's a war on Christmas and say "Merry Christmas" in a "ha-- look at me being defiant" tone.

There was at least one study that showed that people who are "happy" tend to be more self-centered than other people, more likely to ignore other people's problems and avoid sharing.
I'm not compelled to believe "cheer up" is a good solution to the world's problems.

But that's just it... The "happy" people don't seem to be as interested in solving problems other than their own as they are in trying to avoid things that will make them unhappy, like unhappy people.


message 20: by Ed (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments Okay then how about this: instead of saying 'just cheer up' how about I just say, "why dont you go play in traffic you little frickin nit wit?!?"

Btw, who are these "happy people" you speak of? And why are you so opposed to them?


message 21: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Ed Wagemann wrote: "Okay then how about this: instead of saying 'just cheer up' how about I just say, "why dont you go play in traffic you little frickin nit wit?!?"

Btw, who are these "happy people" you speak of? An..."


Describes 90% of the people I'm around most days.
They have a strong hostility toward people who need help or who are unhappy... Their brains are quite imaginative (not really... the results are pretty much pre-contrived) at dreaming up why it is those people are sad or in need of help, and SPOILER: it's always something minor or that they are weak and entitled, etc, etc. They accomplish this through advanced mind-reading, I guess.

Interestingly though... they do take quite a bit of time out of their lives to complain about how everyone is a bunch of complainers and how they should all just be happy with their lives...
The irony is usually too much for me.
I stay quiet...

This also describes about 75% of Facebook memes I see every day, not counting dumb political talking points that somehow involve Hitler.

I envy people who claim not to be surrounded by these types... but I can't be certain they just aren't paying attention.


message 22: by Ed (last edited Jan 24, 2013 05:45PM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments So by "happy people" you actually mean "phoney people"???

Are there any actual happy people in your world Rob? If so, how do you characterize them? Do you inlcude yourself as being an actually happy person?


message 23: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Ed Wagemann wrote: "So by "happy people" you actually mean "phoney people"???

Are there any actual happy people in your world Rob? If so, how do you characterize them? Do you inlcude yourself as being an actually h..."



I don't believe in happy people.
Happiness is an emotion. It's not even possible to be happy all the time. If you succeed a lot in life, you'll grow accustomed to it and take it for granted.

People who are happy all the time-- always counting their blessings... it's nothing but religious ritual. They're telling themselves they're happy and forcing themselves to believe it because they think to live otherwise is evil.
The tell: when they end up getting angry and bitter toward unhappy people.

I think happiness is a cult.
And when you really look at what that cult does, how it distorts good things (the example by a writer-- can't remember the name-- who thinks similarly to me is the way we've turned concern with cancer into a cult of The Survivor... which has odd implications for the non-survivor and how we think of them).
Doing good requires the recognition of bad.
If people who believe they are little beacons of happiness refuse to see the sorrow around them, what good are they?

The cult creates a lot of weird mantras about unhappy people. Like they are "afraid of success". Has anyone actually thought about that stupid phrase?! Unhappy people aren't afraid of success... They don't take risks because they are afraid of FAILURE.
It's not symmetric. Unhappy people don't like being unhappy-- they might be used to it, they might find it too difficult to be happy, they might give up on ever being happy and make themselves more miserable because it's easier... but it's not because they don't want to be happy, it's because they think they can't be happy!

But that doesn't work as well for a cult.
Might be useful information if maybe you actually want there to be less misery in the world.
But "happy people" don't want less misery in the world. They want less misery in THEIR WORLD.

As for me... I've been happy, I've been sad, and often I've been angry. I'm pretty content with my position right now. At some points I'm rather frustrated about it or joyous about it... but now mostly content.

I'm not a big fan of the chronically miserable, but at least I understand why they feel the way they do.
It requires no weird belief system to be miserable, just a series of bad events... and maybe a chemical imbalance.

But in being entrenched with the tribe of self-help and positive-thinking, I've found their religious customs to be strange and cult-like. Nothing different from primitive religion.
I suppose it wouldn't bother me so much if they were conscious of being entangled in a self-serving religious paradigm, at least to the extent most zealots are... but they don't.


message 24: by Ed (last edited Jan 25, 2013 11:35AM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments Robb, happiness does exist. Trying to rationalize that it doesn't exist or that it is just a cult is quite honestly kinda pathetic and boring. I'm not saying that to be insulting, its just my honest opinion.


message 25: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Ed Wagemann wrote: "Robb, happiness does exist. Trying to rationalize that it doesn't exist or that it is just a cult is quite honestly kinda pathetic and boring. I'm not saying that to be insulting, its just my hon..."

Happiness does exist. It's an emotion.
It's not a permanent state.
Unless you've somehow managed to find a way to control dopamine levels without growing tolerant.


message 26: by Ed (last edited Jan 25, 2013 01:03PM) (new)

Ed Wagemann (edwagemann) | 992 comments Well of course it is not a permanent state. The only constant in the universe is change.

But do you ever wonder why happiness exists? Happiness exists so that the human race will continue. If there was no happiness then there would be no point in any of us getting out of bed every morning. Even basic instincts like breathing and eating and fornicating are all done because they bring happiness. Sometimes it is short term happiness, sure. But so what?


message 27: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson William wrote: "Robb wrote: "Ed Wagemann wrote: "Robb, happiness does exist. Trying to rationalize that it doesn't exist or that it is just a cult is quite honestly kinda pathetic and boring. I'm not saying that..."

I'd argue that if one has a predisposed tendency toward sadness, trying to be happy will just increase the frustration and lead to a lot of wasted effort... and, well, you can see where the cycle goes.

The problem with the idea of "base level" is that there are actually things that make people happier or more miserable.
A big problem is that the way humans generally feel is based on relativity.
An unequal society will produce some winners and a whole bunch of losers. Losers are generally not happy. Winners are generally happy-- until they start comparing themselves to other winners (which is why you always hear the only-sort-of-rich people kvetching about being piled in with their richer neighbors, why white collar well-off folks embezzle).
Looking at game theory experiments, we see that people will screw themselves and others to avoid being the only one screwed even when they'd be screwed less!

Experiences make people happier than material... but new experiences are not free. Not free in terms of time or money.

In a hyper-individualistic, heavily unequal society, how does a loser (or a well-off person around people who are doing better) become happy?
1. Cut yourself off from people of different classes; keep yourself from knowing that others have a better life.
2. Stop trying to improve and accept your lot in life.

That's how you achieve happiness.

Now if you're a middle class person... maybe it's okay. If you're a poor person, this is really good for people in power, but it sucks for you and your family in absolute terms. Maybe happiness shouldn't be our first goal in life.

Also the very notion of "happiness" we follow is an extremely hyper-individualist frame that ignores how people are actually happier when they are involved in groups of mutual trust.
The whole framework of "being happy" is about seeing people as tools to make you "happy" (are you hanging around the right people?)
A real group of mutual trust is built on the fact that you are around for people regardless of their moods and they accept you even when you are in a crappy mood (and put up with you when you're in a stupidly manic-happy mood)...

But...
What you'll notice is that "happy" people are generally irritated by the unhappy, have no interest in listening to them or helping them out. Too busy seeking their own "spiritual enlightenment" or other such new agey BS.

Happiness, if we are to call it a real state, comes from being happy or not happy, being able to be honestly not happy when you are not happy, AND TO DO SO MEANS ALLOWING THAT OF OTHERS.

Seriously... Do we consider it true happiness when cashiers are forced to smile at work?
That's emotional WORK.
Being happy requires being able to vent!
But "happy" people have no tolerance for that... except when it's them.
And what do they choose to vent most about? UNHAPPY PEOPLE VENTING!


message 28: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson William wrote: "I do a little part time work and I force myself to smile there. You know, though, the funny thing is it actually makes me happier! I think it is actually a science fact that the very act of smiling..."

It's because happiness, as defined in such studies, is usually based on relative wellbeing.
I read something in SciAm a few years ago about the relation of stress to health disparity between the classes.
Thee finding was that, even difference in healthcare systems and access to clean water did not make as much difference as relative poverty.
While disparity is sky-high between rich and poor in third world countries, the poor have no connection to the rich and now illusions that they will ever be anything than poor.

So when people talk about "happiness" in the US, I laugh.
Our system is built on extreme stratification and an extreme emphasis on mobility between classes, in which the poor are demonized for not working their way up, middle class people are shamed for not doing ever more, and the rich are made to feel inadequate by the richer.

We're a heavily stratified society that operates on the idea that "all men are created equal".
We are a society designed for unhappiness!

And what would make us as happy as Nigeria?
A caste system? Telling the poor to just give up?
It would make us happier. Mainly because it would be honest. It would probably decrease consumer spending (the act of the desperate to increase class) and lead to more poverty as a consequence... but we'd be happier.

The self-help books, our version, go more for "personal happiness." And yet... most of what they preach is to engage as much as possible in the same rat race that makes happiness impossible. But that probably helps to sell more self-help books.
(isn't it kind of funny that the loudest voices on personal responsibility and making yourself and all that... are people who make a living speaking and writing a bunch of garbage to gullible customers?)

So the US form of happiness is a carrot dangling on a string in front of our noses.
The Nigerian version is content fatalism (yes, pessimism breeds happiness!)

This is why I don't think happiness should be the main goal.

On a side note, when it comes to forcing a smile... that has some severe limits and doesn't work for everybody...
But it's becoming a business model!

In the same way that we are now required to have "more than money" reasons to want any job ("I'm proud to work for Philip Morris because we make cancer and cancer makes the Survivors that inspire us all"), companies are now creating set policies that their lowest paid, least secure workers force happiness (well, technically they are just supposed to be "happy people" who aren't in it for the money-- the huge salaries of baristas and fast food servers).

At what point does the happiness doctrine become a dystopian nightmare.
All to fit the "experience" needs of a management-HR culture that views human beings as puppets.

I have never seen a campaign to actual force negativity on people.
Positivity is where the fascism seems to come in.


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