Choose Optimism

 

What if I told those of you who are “realists” or “pessimists” that changing your worldview, particularly about the current state of the United States, could help save the country? I know, I know. Sounds like the statement of a dedicated optimist. But if you will bear with me, I’ll make the argument that it is possible to change our worldviews (which often determine what we say and do) and it is a worthy endeavor.

First, let me provide my understanding of these words: realist, pessimist, and optimist. A realist has an “inclination toward literal truth and pragmatism.” I would also say that in many ways, a realist can practice either optimism or pessimism when he looks beyond the present. The reason for these pairings of beliefs is that it’s nearly impossible for a realist to accurately (in his or her view) see the current situation without looking to the future. Whether your secondary worldview is pessimism or optimism will determine whether you are hopeful for this country or are assuming the worst.

A pessimist leans toward “emphasizing or thinking of the bad part of a situation rather than the good part, or the feeling that bad things are more likely to happen than good things.” But I found another intriguing definition of the word, which might resonate with some of you: “The doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil.”

I would propose that if you hold this view, you are assisting those who wish to destroy this country.

Lastly, optimism, which is often equated with a “Pollyanna” is well-defined in this way: “the quality of being full of hope and emphasizing the good parts of a situation or a belief that something good will happen.” Please note that an optimist doesn’t necessarily ignore or gloss over the negative situation, nor does he or she only pay attention to the good. Instead, a person will believe that eventually, the goodwill rule out.

I believe, however, that the good cannot happen without a preponderance of optimism for this country.

* * * * *

I do understand that these terms are on a spectrum, so they exist to different degrees and for various situations in everyone’s mind. And some of you might point out that the degree to which you would call yourself an optimist, pessimist or realist depends on the situation. So, for the sake of this discussion, let’s apply these terms to the future of the United States. Where do you stand when you contemplate our future?

* * * * *

Although many of us may believe that our view of the world is dictated early in life, and by our experiences, that belief is not entirely true. We can choose how we choose to view the world. For example, a person may be an atheist, agnostic or believer. But those beliefs are fluid, as many of you know. I propose, therefore, that you can also choose how to view the world. In my own life, I grew up with two parents who loved me dearly but were fearful and pessimistic. They couldn’t imagine any other way to view the world. Eventually, my mother moderated her concerns, because she chose to do so. I struggled with honoring their worldviews or embracing the view that I was developing due to my own experiences, learning, and temperament. I believe that at a deep level, my own fear about life and others gradually transformed because I encountered too many honest, dedicated, and heartfelt people; to continue to hold to my lifelong orientation would have been living a lie.

* * * * *

So, what am I suggesting to you? Making these kinds of changes is a process; it requires patience and discomfort, as you try to hold on to old beliefs at the same time the new ones are emerging. You can also be certain that the Left will beat you down at every opportunity. I am proposing, not that you make a 180-degree change, but that if you are a pessimist, you make more of an effort to see the good within the bad. That you choose to see the positive in spite of the dominance of the negative. That when you speak with people, you not only commiserate about all the destructive actions that Biden has taken, but that you add all the encouraging actions by the Republicans. Here are just a few examples:

  • The 1776 Report was published to provide arguments against the 1619 Project; methods for making it more widely available are being sought. I’m assuming that some semblance of the report is already being included in the 24 charter schools started by Hillsdale College (with 4-6 more planned for 2021).
  • Two dozen Republicans have urged President Biden to re-declare a national emergency for the border:

A letter sent to the White House on Friday implored Biden to reverse one of his first moves as president in which he terminated a two-year-old national emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico, which was a declaration by then-President Donald Trump, as thousands of unaccompanied migrant children and families arrive at the border each week.

  • Ron DeSantis is encouraging Florida lawmakers to set limits on the emergency powers of local governments. The implication is that local governments are unfairly restricting the citizens of their localities, and they need to be reined in.
  • Greg Abbott of Texas, along with other governors, has lifted the mask mandate for his state. Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, Mississippi are the other states involved. Although some localities in these states, as well as retailers, are insisting on mandates, the states are moving in the right direction.
  • GOP legislators were united in fighting the Covid-19 bill, which focused limited funds on the virus and most of the funds on non-virus issues.
  • A bill limiting the China-backed Confucius Institutes in our universities (which are indoctrination schools for Chinese propaganda) passed the Senate unanimously.

This is only a partial list of positive steps. Will they alone save the country? No. But if we are willing to abandon a knee-jerk negative reaction to the state of affairs, and instead point out that some things are starting to happen, the ship may start to turn. The Democrats are already helping us with their inept management of immigration, turning the Capitol into a war zone, and ignoring the lies, particularly stated by Joe Biden, that are leaking out to our citizens. We can’t rely on the media to call out the lies, although there are some indications that at least a couple of individuals are having some difficulty maintaining the illusion of success. We don’t have to misrepresent the positive steps the Republicans have made, but if we are willing to shift to an optimistic viewpoint, and emphasize to others that we will work to turn things around, we will help the country move in the right direction.

It’s up to each one of us to shift our perspectives and stand strong.

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  1. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Get on board or get out of the way.

    Because the endless defeatism ain’t gettin’ it done.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chris Oler (View Comment):

    Get on board or get out of the way.

    Because the endless defeatism ain’t gettin’ it done.

    It’s also debilitating for those who can’t find their way out of the defeatism, @chrisoler, and to the person who insists on holding onto it. Don’t misunderstand: we all need the chance to vent our anger and frustration. But if that’s where we’re stuck, it’s darn hard to find our way out. We have more to gain by changing than by sticking to the negative. Never mind that those who are stuck rarely offer solutions. When we work with optimism, possibilities begin to show up!

    • #2
  3. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Chris Oler (View Comment):

    Get on board or get out of the way.

    Because the endless defeatism ain’t gettin’ it done.

    We need to stop fighting them and assist them in their destruction.  Just like peace is only attainable after war. The Phoenix of freedom is only attainable after free civilization collapse.

    • #3
  4. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Chris Oler (View Comment):

    Get on board or get out of the way.

    Because the endless defeatism ain’t gettin’ it done.

    We need to stop fighting them and assist them in their destruction. Just like peace is only attainable after war. The Phoenix of freedom is only attainable after free civilization collapse.

    I don’t think we can help them, they’re nosediving in a big way right now.

    • #4
  5. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Chris Oler (View Comment):

    Get on board or get out of the way.

    Because the endless defeatism ain’t gettin’ it done.

    It’s also debilitating for those who can’t find their way out of the defeatism, @ chrisoler, and to the person who insists on holding onto it. Don’t misunderstand: we all need the chance to vent our anger and frustration. But if that’s where we’re stuck, it’s darn hard to find our way out. We have more to gain by changing than by sticking to the negative. Never mind that those who are stuck rarely offer solutions. When we work with optimism, possibilities begin to show up!

    I’m shocked there hasn’t been a bigger response to this, Susan, whether in support or denial (see what I did there). Anyway, I loved it.

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan, I didn’t initially comment on this post, because it struck me as somehow incorrect in characterizing our choice as being between optimism and pessimism.  I think that realism is the appropriate balance between these.

    Perhaps our situation calls for a choice between despair and resolution.

    I like the formulation used by Churchill to summarize the lessons of his WW II series:

    In war, resolution

    In defeat, defiance

    In victory, magnanimity 

    In peace, good will

     

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m not shocked, but a little disappointed. People want to hold on to their attitudes, for one. Also, optimism can get a bad rap–too many people see optimists as pollyannas. And finally, some folks don’t think people are capable of this kind of change. It’s hard. But it’s very rewarding. Thanks for the kind comments, @chriso.  Did you end up leaving? Or are you back?

    Edit: I would also add that the people who have “liked” the post are people, to the person, that I admire and appreciate. That means a lot.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Susan, I didn’t initially comment on this post, because it struck me as somehow incorrect in characterizing our choice as being between optimism and pessimism. I think that realism is the appropriate balance between these.

    Perhaps our situation calls for a choice between despair and resolution.

    I like the formulation used by Churchill to summarize the lessons of his WW II series:

    In war, resolution

    In defeat, defiance

    In victory, magnanimity

    In peace, good will

     

    First, if you read the post you’d be aware of the limitations of realism. Also, I love the Churchill quote, but it doesn’t address the issue: our overall worldview.

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Optimist: The glass is half full.

    Pessimist:  The glass is half empty.

    Engineer #1:  The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

    Engineer #2:  The glass is the perfect size with a safety factor of 2.

    • #9
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Optimism requires the cardinal virtue of hope. Evil seeks to extinguish hope. 

    Genuine optimism motivates because it unveils opportunity and fosters the emergence of goals and vision.  Fake optimism is a form of passivity.  The “inshallah” culture in Islamic countries is an example of that:  There is no point in actively working to make the trains and buses run on time or build a better sewer system.  If Allah wills it, it will happen so it is not on me to do anything about it.  

    Optimism is contingent on a belief that there can be transcendent value in temporal actions.  Doing the right thing matters even if nobody else knows.  Optimism says that the positive, virtuous parts of other people can be touched and joined to produce good outcomes and that failure is never permanent.  The habit of looking for the good, working to infuse the good in the world (even when bad things appear to be on the rise) is pretty close to a definition of the meaning and purpose of life.

    “Systemic racism”, “climate change” and the lack of “equity” are demands that we despair of the goodness of people (particularly our ancestors), that we regard our existence as an injury to nature and that injustice is endemic and nothing can or should be done but to surrender to whatever raw accumulations of power arise in feigned opposition to our evil nature and seek to strip us of our full personhood and true nature. 

    The illusion of moral neutrality of the sybaritic lifestyle–I just enjoy life and don’t hurt anybody so I am not evil or actively opposing it either (but mostly I seek sensual pleasures to keep the emptiness at bay)–is a form of despair.  It is being drunk in a Weimar stupor watching the Reichstag burn while feeling vaguely superior to both sides struggling out there.  There is never really any neutral ground.

     

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Optimism requires the cardinal virtue of hope. Evil seeks to extinguish hope.

    Genuine optimism motivates because it unveils opportunity and fosters the emergence of goals and vision. Fake optimism is a form of passivity. The “inshallah” culture in Islamic countries is an example of that: There is no point in actively working to make the trains and buses run on time or build a better sewer system. If Allah wills it, it will happen so it is not on me to do anything about it.

    Optimism is contingent on a belief that there can be transcendent value in temporal actions. Doing the right thing matters even if nobody else knows. Optimism says that the positive, virtuous parts of other people can be touched and joined to produce good outcomes and that failure is never permanent. The habit of looking for the good, working to infuse the good in the world (even when bad things appear to be on the rise) is pretty close to a definition of the meaning and purpose of life.

    “Systemic racism”, “climate change” and the lack of “equity” are demands that we despair of the goodness of people (particularly our ancestors), that we regard our existence as an injury to nature and that injustice is endemic and nothing can or should be done but to surrender to whatever raw accumulations of power arise in feigned opposition to our evil nature and seek to strip us of our full personhood and true nature.

    The illusion of moral neutrality of the sybaritic lifestyle–I just enjoy life and don’t hurt anybody so I am not evil or actively opposing it either (but mostly I seek sensual pleasures to keep the emptiness at bay)–is a form of despair. It is being drunk in a Weimar stupor watching the Reichstag burn while feeling vaguely superior to both sides struggling out there. There is never really any neutral ground.

     

    @oldbathos, I know the word “awesome” is overused, but this is a series of awesome comments. I wish I could edit it into my OP. In fact, the way you speak of optimism inspires me to pursue its realization even more. I think it will be an important factor in saving this country. Thank you.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Stad (View Comment):

    Optimist: The glass is half full.

    Pessimist: The glass is half empty.

    Engineer #1: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

    Engineer #2: The glass is the perfect size with a safety factor of 2.

    I wanna see the requirements document.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):
    I wanna see the requirements document.

    . . . and I’m stayin’ out of that one!

    • #13
  14. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    I’m a cynic, which I define as a disappointed optimist.  This is grown from painful and happy experience.  It’s a useful tempering of my natural optimism which, ironically, makes an optimistic outcome more likely for me.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    No Caesar (View Comment):

    I’m a cynic, which I define as a disappointed optimist. It’s a useful tempering of my natural optimism which, ironically, makes an optimistic outcome more likely.

    Now that is a unique approach, @nocaesar. But could you tell us more? What are the reasons for tempering your natural optimism? And how does that make an optimistic outcome more likely? This might actually describe me! Or maybe I’m a skeptic, a skeptical optimist?

    • #15
  16. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Genuine optimism motivates because it unveils opportunity and fosters the emergence of goals and vision.

    At some point during the post revolutionary phase of the industrial revolution, the goal of a great many people became security. It becomes a game of what are you willing to trade for it, and here we are at the precipice: now you must swear woke allegiance for it. 

    That won’t faze many who have already compromised. There’s nothing to say here but that many are willing to do it, and that many feel their security threatened in the presence of disruptive elements. 

    Make no mistake: optimism is the more disruptive side of this conversation. What we’re experiencing now, the quickening of the ultra-woke codeword society may seem it, but really it’s just moving faster down a road we were already familiar with.

    So do not be surprised when you have conservative friends tell you not to rock the boat, even though we’re at a point where banks serve or do not serve on the basis of politics, rather than who might actually be able to make good on a loan, be it business or personal.

    No, do not rock that boat that is buffeted now by ever-intensifying forces, not violent, but no less destructive in their effects. Do not rock that boat so I can just get mine and get out.

    Pessimism is apathy; apathy, at least in Elie Wiesel’s opinion, is the most destructive emotion of all. As he says, anger can at least create, one is perhaps artistically inspired out of anger, but not indifference. So, maybe FJJG is right, we need to help it burn rather than fight it.

    Wait until the lights go out in New York? Nah. I deserve better and so do my children, and things will be better, and I am even now a part of it.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chris Oler (View Comment):
    Wait until the lights go out in New York? Nah. I deserve better and so do my children, and things will be better, and I am even now a part of it.

    Beautiful statement, Chris. Thank you. You are indeed a part of it.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl’s words, who also came out of the concentration camps. That the people who survived were the ones who felt their work in life was not finished; that they still had more to do. We are not anywhere near being in camps, but if we allow ourselves to become passive, eventually we will give in completely or give up.

    I just can’t imagine our reaching that point, but we must inspire ourselves and others!

    • #18
  19. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Susan, I didn’t initially comment on this post, because it struck me as somehow incorrect in characterizing our choice as being between optimism and pessimism. I think that realism is the appropriate balance between these.

    Perhaps our situation calls for a choice between despair and resolution.

    I like the formulation used by Churchill to summarize the lessons of his WW II series:

    In war, resolution

    In defeat, defiance

    In victory, magnanimity

    In peace, good will

     

    First, if you read the post you’d be aware of the limitations of realism. Also, I love the Churchill quote, but it doesn’t address the issue: our overall worldview.

    I did read the post.  I don’t agree with your definition of “realism” in these circumstances.  Following your link in the OP, you selected one of over 20 different definitions of “realism,” and I don’t think that the one that you picked was the proper definition in the context of contrasting realism with optimism or pessimism.

    The definition that I have in mind is “the tendency to view or represent things as they really are.”  I think that this is the one that fits with optimism (a tendency to view things in a positive way) and pessimism (a tendency to view things in a negative way).

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    he definition that I have in mind is “the tendency to view or represent things as they really are.”

    Okay. But by itself, realism allows one to just let things be as they are, without motivation to change things. That’s why it’s difficult to see the benefit of realism standing on its own, if we are going to make this country better. Realist: things are a mess. Optimist: I can help make thing better.

    • #20
  21. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Oddly I consider myself as an optimist.  I know that is contrary to the way the Ricochetti see me.  In the end good and God will win.  Just not in our life time and not without a lot of blood and torture.  

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Percival (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Optimist: The glass is half full.

    Pessimist: The glass is half empty.

    Engineer #1: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

    Engineer #2: The glass is the perfect size with a safety factor of 2.

    I wanna see the requirements document.

    Sorry, we’re busy writing the tech specs . . .

    • #22
  23. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Susan Quinn:

    A letter sent to the White House on Friday implored Biden to reverse one of his first moves as president in which he terminated a two-year-old national emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico, which was a declaration by then-President Donald Trump, as thousands of unaccompanied migrant children and families arrive at the border each week.

    This is not an encouraging development. “National emergency” is a political euphemism for “ignore due process and just do something!” At the heart of our immigration troubles is a preference for executive actions over legislation. There is little incentive to legislate if presidents and governors are tolerated to change policies unilaterally. 

    We should always be hopeful because hope drives us to action. I’m reluctant to equate that with optimism because I have known optimists who passively dismiss problems in willful expectation that those problems will sort themselves out.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Optimism, to me, is embodied in the Allies’ efforts against the Axis militaries in World War II. Keep going because we might win. :-) 

    • #24
  25. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    A bill limiting the China-backed Confucius Institutes in our universities (which are indoctrination schools for Chinese propaganda) passed the Senate unanimously.

    This vote is a surprise to me, a small but welcome development.

    Regarding being a pessimist or optimist, decades ago, I was told by a person around me that no one wanted to hear my negative comments (or something to this effect).  I was shocked because I wasn’t even aware that I was bad-mouthing anything.  Subsequently, I realized that I needed to consciously create a positive attitude to have one.  It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.  The bad things that have happened in my life pale in significance to what many others face now or have faced in the past, so I have nothing to complain about.  And I think this applies to a majority of Americans. 

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Tedley (View Comment):
    Subsequently, I realized that I needed to consciously create a positive attitude to have one. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. The bad things that have happened in my life pale in significance to what many others face now or have faced in the past, so I have nothing to complain about. And I think this applies to a majority of Americans. 

    It isn’t cheesy at all, @tedley. It’s admirable! I used to work with organizations a lot, and the pessimists would drive the optimists crazy; it’s so easy to be dragged down my negativity. Most of the time, the pessimists were not willing to change, because to them, that was the real world. And they expected to be criticized for that view! It takes courage to change, rather than get defensive. And yes, it’s helpful to remember that no matter how difficult our lives are, others have it worse. Thanks for your comment!

    • #26
  27. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Tedley (View Comment):
    Subsequently, I realized that I needed to consciously create a positive attitude to have one. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. The bad things that have happened in my life pale in significance to what many others face now or have faced in the past, so I have nothing to complain about. And I think this applies to a majority of Americans.

    It isn’t cheesy at all, @ tedley. It’s admirable! I used to work with organizations a lot, and the pessimists would drive the optimists crazy; it’s so easy to be dragged down my negativity. Most of the time, the pessimists were not willing to change, because to them, that was the real world. And they expected to be criticized for that view! It takes courage to change, rather than get defensive. And yes, it’s helpful to remember that no matter how difficult our lives are, others have it worse. Thanks for your comment!

    Organizations really need naysayers though; they help optimists see where things can go wrong and be prepared for them. Sometimes Old Man Paingloss needs a reality check. 

    • #27