When Did Optimism Become Uncool?
May 14, 2016 6 Comments
I know, I hate to refer to (let alone link to) The New York Times, but sometimes they almost make sense. This piece, for example, he says several risible things in making his point, but he does have one, and he’s right.
What really is so bad? Yes, it could (and should) all be better, if we’d had better policies and perhaps better people. The economy, is firing on about 5 cylinders, and that makes a V8 run rather badly, but it’s running. Washington intrudes far too much, but we’re still better than anybody I can think of, and freer than most, mostly by our own hand.
GIVEN Donald J. Trump’s virtual lock on the Republican presidential nomination, you’d think he’d be a bit more upbeat. Instead, his campaign began last summer with “our country is going to hell,” then declared, “we’re becoming a third world country,” and by this month had progressed to the United States “losing all the time.”
This election season, the impending apocalypse has been issue No. 1 for presidential aspirants on both sides. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he was running “because the world is falling apart.” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, declared the United States “near an abyss.” On the left, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says the economy has been “destroyed” for all but the wealthy few.
Presidential contenders are hardly alone in such bleak views. An April Gallup poll found that only 26 percent of Americans call themselves “satisfied” with “the way things are going” in the United States. It’s been this way for a while: January 2004, during the George W. Bush administration, was the last time a majority told Gallup they felt good about the nation’s course.
Yet a glance out the window shows blue sky. There are troubling issues, including the horror of mass shootings, but most American social indicators have been positive at least for years, in many cases for decades. The country is, on the whole, in the best shape it’s ever been in. So what explains all the bad vibes?
Social media and cable news, which highlight scare stories and overstate anger, bear part of the blame. So does the long-running decline in respect for the clergy, the news media, the courts and other institutions. The Republican Party’s strange insistence on disparaging the United States doesn’t help, either.
But the core reason for the disconnect between the nation’s pretty-good condition and the gloomy conventional wisdom is that optimism itself has stopped being respectable. Pessimism is now the mainstream, with optimists viewed as Pollyannas. If you don’t think everything is awful, you don’t understand the situation!
I think that is the key here, as well, it has simply become fashionable to be a pessimist, many of us have become defeatist, whether its politics, religion, education, or the generation(s) behind us, it’s all doom and gloom, all the time.
Time for a reality check, I see the same problems as you do, but I ain’t defeated. It’s a challenge, folks, how are we going to solve them? Remember it was about 42 months between Pearl Harbor, and Tokyo Bay, only a couple years between Apollo 1 and landing on the moon.
Whingeing never solved anything, and if we do our best to fix our local problems the big national ones will mostly disappear.
And I’m not overly interested in who you think is preventing from doing whatever, either, my experience says that 99% of the time, it’s an excuse, to sit around and have a beer.
And besides, it’s fun solving your own problems, so let get to it.