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17 March 2011 @ 01:52 pm

"You're terribly negative."

I get that sometimes.  Not a lot, not all the time (it helps that I don't talk about politics as much as I used to), but still... it's been said to me more than a few times.

The thing is, get me started on issues that trouble the world and I'll start saying things like, "Environmental conservationism is a fundamentally misguided fantasy," and, "It is not possible to relieve our dependence on fossil fuels," and, "Humans are naturally violent animals; war is not something that's just going to end someday."  I've got a million of those little gems, firmly entrenched after years of observation and research, and I try not to drop them very often.

And all of those things sound really horrifically pessimistic, even cynical.  But I always feel confused when people accuse me of those things, because I don't feel cynical and pessimistic as I'm saying them.

I feel highly optimistic, even laudably so.  Because I still think things like this can be dealt with, worked on, even improved!

I just don't posit that without first forming a respectful acknowledgment of the problem.

I think most people skip that step.  They see the outskirts or the fringe results of a problem, see that those things are bad, and say, "This is wrong!  Stop it at the source!"  Without really delving into that source and it's own source and the source below that, all of the mitigating factors, and the positive things that were often the original reason the system was put into place.  People who act vigorously on their suppositions, often find out just how deep and wide the problem is.  But then they often skip another step, and become embittered, thinking that the world is just evil and awful and there's no fixing it.

Sure, there's a fix.  Somewhere.  It's just harder than you thought it was, and it's going to take more than just you, and you probably won't live to see it, and it might not be effective and you'll have to find another, and it may very well cause problems worse than the original problem, not to mention even worse problems down the road that you have no way of foreseeing.

This has been true for every solution that has ever been invented to solve every problem we've ever encountered.  You can despair, or you can do it anyway.

Take that first, painful gulp, and accept the following:

- Humans may not be fundamentally good, but they are fundamentally well-intentioned.  The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but the road to Heaven is, too.  Don't think your intentions exempt you from anything any human has ever done.

- People don't want bad things, either.  They DO bad things because they WANT good things.

- Power corrupts, except when it doesn't.  We just notice when it does, because, well, it's powerful.  Things of greater power are not good or evil, they're just good and evil in greater amounts than things which are less powerful.

- The problem is more complicated than you think it is.  Chances are, the easy solutions have already been tried, or are already in implementation.  Be prepared for that.

- Almost nothing is the way it is because it was determined to be that way.  Systems don't have DNA.  They grow into their shapes because they are molded by natural forces (bumping up against other systems).

- The tiniest, stupidest thing could mess up your efforts so badly that you are hated and reviled for the rest of your life.  Or you could kill a few thousand people.  It happens.  (A lot.)

- Knowing the bad news doesn't make you a pessimist.  It makes you an effective optimist.

- It's very, very hard to be an optimist without denial.

Actually, most people don't realize it, but denial is a very healthy thing.  We're not built, as humans, to acknowledge too many problems at once; our processors can't handle it and our emotional centers can't operate in a state of perpetual overwhelm.  We're built to prioritize, or crumple.

My problem has always been that my brain doesn't prioritize very well.  It's not really an advantage; I've fought depression my whole life, I have a terrible time concentrating on the tasks and the people right in front of my nose, I'm prone to anxiety and fatigue, my memory is for crap, and I'm addicted to overly-absorbing distractions.  Because of all this, I'm a pretty ineffective human most of the time.  I used to crumple in a high wind.

That was before I became an optimist!  :D

Your mileage may vary.
bellonablack on March 17th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
I agree with all of it, actually, and I'm not a pessimist. I'd say 'realist?'

I'm not sure.

But I don't know about the power corrupts, that's the only one I don't agree with entirely. I think people, with their intentions, suddenly have the ability to affect change without any hindrance on them. It's like the internet in a way. The reigns are off, consequences don't seem to come in any direct form. (until they do, whichhhh...)

I have no idea what I'd do, though, because power does imply you have to make some wide-ranging decisions. I can't really hate on politicians on any spectrum because while I can criticize (and have a right to), I don't know what I'd do in their shoes, necessarily.
Petermaverick_weirdo on March 17th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
Optimism is a choice. Nice to have you on the Pro team. ;)
irene_adler on March 18th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Funny, I tend to think of you as a positive person, except when you are very ill (and who ever is then?) Maybe that's because you've helped me out by being positive so much. But I did know that that's because you've developed intense coping skills on account of having intensities to cope with.
Andrew Kaufmanmarmota on March 18th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
- Knowing the bad news doesn't make you a pessimist. It makes you an effective optimist.
- It's very, very hard to be an optimist without denial.

Yes, this. I'd rather be depressed than lying to anyone, including myself, though. I figure the cost of paying attention is just another way of taking one for the team.
pokeyburropokeyburro on March 19th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Pretty good stuff.