Pessimism

Doom and gloom is a growth industry. Just scan the shelves of your local bookstore and you’ll be assailed by titles such as; Is it just me or is everything sh*t? The Long Emergency: Surviving the converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century and my own particular favourite, How to Survive a Robot Uprising.But is life really getting worse? There are indeed many things to worry about. Melting ice caps, influenza pandemics, the erosion of privacy, terrorism — even high interest rates that would make second homes unaffordable. We’re all agreed then, right?Wrong. A lawyer in his seventies recently accused me — in the nicest possible way – of living on another planet. Where was this anxiety that I was talking about? Where is evidence of life speeding up and how could I compare a fear of terrorism with the threat of total nuclear annihilation which he had lived through during the nineteen fifties and sixties? Fair point. Life is not a single experience and even people living in the same street will view events in totally different ways. In other worlds, we don’t see things are they are, we see them as we are. If you have grown up through a world war – or heaven forbid, two — our current anxieties are a sideshow compared to what you would have endured. More importantly, we have become paralysed by future possibilities. We have become so afraid of worst-case scenarios that we have all but forgotten present realities. The air we breathe is now considerably cleaner today than it was fifty or one hundred years ago but many people think the opposite. Equally serious crime and acts of serious sexual violence against children are at the lowest level for years but we choose not to believe it.So what is all this ‘miserablism’ about? It seems to me when it comes to the future, it’s safer — and lazier – to be a pessimist. Optimism takes work, it requires commitment. Our parents made sacrifices and remained optimistic because they believed there was a world worth fighting for. So do yourself a favour. Learn from people much older and much younger than yourself. They get it. We don’t. And if you don’t like the way some things are heading do something about it. Get involved. Get angry in the nicest possible way. Above all remember in times like these that there have always been times like these.

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