A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I’m an optimist. I don’t believe life is “short, brutish and cruel” or whatever the hell Thomas Hobbes was going on about. First of all, life is not short: it’s the longest thing you’re ever going to do (aside from eternity, and that doesn’t count.) Secondly, nothing that offers over 20 different kinds of breakfast cereal (from super-nutritious to practically poison) can be called “brutish and cruel.” Perhaps, at one time, Hobbes was money in the bank, but these days the poor guy isn’t even spare change.
The truth is, the only reason a lot of people think pessimism is such a profound philosophy is most of the great thinkers we hold so dear to our hearts (like Hobbes) wrote it that way. Unfortunately, they were doing their writing (and their thinking) in a time when scullery maid was a legitimate occupation, a bad cold could kill ya and public executions were entertainment – for the whole family. Not all that relevant in the 21st century! And, quite frankly, neither is their dim view of the world.
We live in a world that is full of promise. Okay, sometimes we get our priorities screwed up and try to feed the homeless, clothe the starving and tolerate the intolerant — but at least we’re workin’ on it. And the fact is, we do feed a lot of people, we do clothe them, we educate them, offer them medicine, employment and safety. We allow a cornucopia of gods, politics, ideas and opinions all equal billing in the intellectual feast that is Western society. We show mercy, generosity and benevolence — even to those who wish to do us harm. We do not live in a dark world because — quite frankly, folks — when our biggest problem is the Internet is slow, we’ve got nothing to be pessimistic about.