I have been in a lot of conversations that have gotten to the point of root philosophy, and “why do you believe what you believe” styles of questions, and have found myself stating the same set of lines over again. I finally decided that I had rehearsed them enough to bring it to you all, and I have also grown angry enough with the subject to make this a bit entertaining.

The conversation would start on some political issue. It’s become pretty common to be known as “that young political man” wherever I go (for better or worse), and the political stickers on my laptop don’t exactly discourage this. I’ll get into “those types of talk” pretty regularly, and it will usually go on for a while before it stops. As it goes, it will usually hit the subjects of the fundamental nature of things. This leads to the subject at hand, specifically, when I am asked why I’m not more optimistic about things — moving to The Questions:

“Why Don’t I Just Relax, And Be More Optimistic? Wouldn’t it be easier?

Well, the conversation gets to  this point, and I reveal that I’m a Pessimistic cynic, with the following explanation afterward. Some take it well, and some don’t, but I’ll put this up for comment and posterity. You might want to grab a stiff drink.

Optimism is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “a doctrine that this world is the best possible world… an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome”, and by many other systems of definition, is either similar, or the same. If the implications here aren’t clear enough to describe and highlight the inherent flaws in this “ideology”, then I hope my elaboration will.

  • this world is the best possible world

Because the baseboard of this idea seems to be that, when left untouched, this world is optimal (hence its root placement in the word under question), it is inherently flawed. It demands that improvement is unnecessary, and that, frankly (should one examine more closely), any attempt at improvement would go against this notion, and against this “optimal” Optimist world. Basically, the prime definition of Optimism is that anyone who has a concern should not — that concern is, in and of itself, destructive, and harmful to the ecosystem of thought and discourse.

If one is to be an Optimist, then, when that mindset is adopted, one must never believe in the existence of anything negative again; no matter what situation they’re in, and no matter what occurs in the world that might convince someone to  be more perceptive (and possibly even agitated enough to promote the concept of change), they must remain dogmatically steadfast to their belief that things are fine. Optimism is, epistemologically, a collapsed word — a foreshortened version of optimalism. It is intentionally constructed this  way, because to believe that nothing could make this world more optimal is essentially the commission of intellectual suicide, driving away the point of exchanging information at all, as it might be an affront to the gloss and sheen the mentally incapacitating view of Optimism holds key to its structure.

A true Optimist needs to demand that everything stagnate, and remain absolutely still, as nature is not wont to do, and is therefore an affront to more than just the progress of man, and even to the  existence and operation of nature itself. An Optimist needs complete rejection of reality, as reality holds itself in a state of constant flux. And cannot even near the Optimist’s assumed “optimal” state. Simply, an honest Optimist cannot exist.

  • an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome

This is the end result of the lack of thought described above. If Optimism were a viable thought process, the extension of a perfectly optimal world kept perfectly optimal (obviously by Optimists, the age-old guardians of optimalism, optimally doing nothing) would stay optimal, and have optimal outcome. This is what is requisite for Optimism to exist.

Given this, Optimism needs to make even that which is not optimal seem optimal enough to convince themselves and others that Optimism will not fail. It means, as stated above, ignoring the existence of issues, and destroying the parts of the mind that both anticipate, and adapt to, conflict. It means a rejection of logic, to make the present situation, whatever it may be, easier to handle.

If, then, the present situation cannot be dis-improved, then it cannot possibly get worse. If the present is fine, and unchangeable, as Optimist purists demand over and over that it is, then the future, fixed in the same path, with the same methodology, will also be optimal. Nothing can make it worse, and nothing can make it better, as it is held forever in a constant state of what can be described as permanent-best. Not only, in the same way as described in the first point, is this an affront to nature and man, but it is the abject rejection of logic as a useful construct.

It demands stagnation as the way to  achieve a sort of primal prime-ism, and that what would disagree with this mindset can best be described as the enemy, and at worst, simply “over-thinking it”. I state that as “at worst”, because it highlights the intellectual enmity it holds for the intellectual. This finalizes the burial process for the very much nailed coffin that is Optimism, as the very existence of opponents to optimism, which are everywhere, and in everything an Optimist sees (as everything new is an affront to a theory rooted in stagnation), proves that their world is not optimal in their eyes. This disproves any further notions upon which an  optimal world rests, and proves their optimal future impossible, should it result from those previous ideologies.

~

Now that the view of optimism is shown to be broken, I can explain why I am a Pessimistic cynic. I needed to show the obvious flaws in the “othered” theories before explaining why mine is a demonstrably preferable alternative.

Pessimism is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome; the doctrine that reality is essentially evil; the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life”. If this, and its relatively opposing thought, along with the above debunking of Optimism is not enough to highlight its benefits as a philosophy, I will go into detail here.

  • an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome

Progress can only be made where faults, shortcomings, and negative discrepancies are realized and overcome. The only truly effective way to do this is to make obvious those things until a solution is hatched. Pessimists, while being adverse and averse to the all-accepting pseudo-Optimistic culture we endure, and anathema to the intentionally brain-dead, unthinking being that Optimists can only theoretically be, embrace the facts of a situation, and are so averse to stagnation that anything which is negative is instantly at the forefront of their minds. Making this obvious as often as it occurs to one will not win many friends, but with hope, will influence people.

A Pessimist will be viewed as a negative because that which is negative is at the forefront of their discourse, and society has been taught to perceive the guilty by what they associate with, and that optimism is a desirable state, with a pursuit worth defending. A Pessimist will rightly be perceived as a threat to this, and will be labeled an enemy (again invalidating Optimist theory altogether), and will have his pursuits labeled as an affront to what is good. This should not discourage a confident Pessimist, as one’s confidence in the facts is all one needs to remain stable with any ideology.

  • the doctrine that reality is essentially evil; the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life

This may seem completely untrue at face value, but cursory examination will prove the merit of this statement. If we first assume that evil is that which lacks good, and good as a rationally desirable thing, then we must label that which would prevent good as evil.

So a well-meaning Pessimist sees the nature of reality as a series of things preventing one from reaching goals, good or evil — physical and epistemological obstacles before what would be philosophical benevolence. If this line of reasoning is correct, then the conclusion can be drawn from the facts: the obstacles far outnumber the benevolent goals. This being the case, the nature of reality is antithetical to benevolence in action. This, for the sake of logical conclusion, makes reality “evil”, and an evil that necessitates a fight by “good” people. Not intentionally so, as Pessimism doesn’t carry with it a set of mystical principles outlining some sort of intent behind the nature of things, but inherently so, as many other logically irrefutable facts.

Now for the human application. When you allow humans to be a part of something, they almost always hold a separate category from the rest of the included. This means that one requires a specific subsection of ideology to hold their views on humanity in general. Hence cynicism, which is simply a subset ideal of Pessimism intended to voice a view on human interactions with one another, and the negative aspects, and logically negative outcomes implied there.

Cynical is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives; based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest”.

  • “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives

If one accepts that the likely outcome of a situation will be negative, then what is implicit here is a lack of trust at large. If one is to assume that the negative is likely, and that this is the state of nature and man, then the uniformity of these claims would not stop at a general view of trust, that being a sort of faith (or assumed benevolence) in another human. This means that trust is almost nearly impossible, and is requisite of having had enough experience contradictory to the nature of things that is is earned.If, then, this precious resource (Pessimistic, cynical trust) is earned, it is a precious resource, and a reason to keep good faith in interactions with said person — a silent pact to keep fighting “the good fight”, and to never stagnate.

  • “based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest”

Whether you’re an Optimist or a Pessimist, you do it for you. In both mindsets, you are trying to find optimal conditions — only difference is that one is a correct world view, and the other is not. Either way, it is not out of altruism that people act, but out of the thought or implication of what it can return them to act. A good feeling, a personal satisfaction, or the smile on someone’s face are sometimes all it takes to motivate action, and if it takes more, then it is not ethically burdensome, but logically consistent.

~

If this has helped any of you, and I genuinely hope it has, then I spent good time writing this. I certainly hope it casts a better light on this thinking than has been cast before (unless someone’s done a better job than me), and maybe breaks some out of the fog of Optimism, so that some real change can happen. If it hasn’t well, it isn’t like I harmed anything by writing it. Optimism does a good enough job of that for all of us.

Here’s to not rejecting the reality of things, under any circumstances!

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Jeremiah Harding (2013) http://insanityisfree.tumblr.com/