One of the problems (the biggest one, actually) about being an optimist is people think you’re thick. They might listen to you carefully, even agree on occasion, but there’s something in their eyes that says, “Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” It’s an occupational hazard of living in the 21st century where ‘abandon hope” is the soupe du jour. It’s not that people are particularly convinced we’re all screwed; it’s just that a lot of folks have the misconception that pessimism comes with an extra portion of smart. After all, nobody wants to look like a simpleton who still believes in Santa Claus and happily ever after. We’re all adults here, and happy endings belong in children’s fairy tales. Think about it! Once you get past Snow White and the girls, one of the greatest love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet, ends with a double suicide. Ouch!
The problem is we’re taught from the year dot that life doesn’t always go our way. It’s a good lesson, but because we’re children, we make the assumption that that’s the way the world works. We call it being realistic. But it’s not. In fact it’s the exact opposite. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the world is all rainbows and roses – it isn’t — but the truth is that, throughout history, the good guys always win. Believe it or don’t: they do!
Here’s a simple test. You’re sitting here reading this because?
A — You have to work 16 back-breaking hours every day on the business end of a whip.
B – You can’t read or write.
C — Some power-mad asshole and his minions are controlling everything you see and hear.
D — You have cholera, tuberculosis, polio or any of a hundred other diseases.
E — You don’t have enough money to feed yourself; forget about buying a computer!
F – You died in childbirth.
G — None of the above — because over the years, a continuous line of good people did away with all that bullshit.
I don’t care how pessimistic you think you are; there’s no denying we live in the most benevolent society ever. We’re richer, better educated, healthier and more socially aware that at any other time in history. But here’s the deal. This wasn’t always the case; we’ve had to work at it. We’ve had to overcome wars, famine, bat-shit crazy dictators, natural and unnatural disasters and a boatload of debilitating diseases — just to get this far. But we’ve always prevailed – ALWAYS. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here.
Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. A couple of thousand years ago, a guy we call Otzi Man froze to death in the Alps. (He had an arrow in his shoulder and a ton of bad luck.) That was the way it was back then. But try that these days and you’ll have rescue teams from two different countries fighting over who’s going to save your ass, a medical helicopter, paramedics, a stretcher, trauma nurses, a hospital, doctors, antibiotics, sheets, bandages and a line of people willing to donate blood. That’s progressive, folks! So I’m no rocket scientist, but of course, I’m an optimist!