Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Optimistic pessimism

 I have been called many names – pragmatist, poet, intellectual, dualist, mystic, epiphenomenalist, phenomenalist, brutish materialist, atheist, papist, amateur – but no one, I believe, has yet called me an optimist.

There are ways to be optimistic and ways to be pessimistic and to my mind it isn’t easy to choose between the two when it comes to adopting general attitudes. Because there are aspects of British life which if observed too closely are grim reminders that too often, pessimism is realism and optimism isn't.

Political life in particular.

I can certainly understand why many leave it alone and many more prefer to be deluded into supporting one of the major brands of professional lying. Joining is always some kind of shelter isn't it?

Yet for those of us outside the shelter, political correctness, floods of unnecessary laws and regulations and increasingly overt immorality and even criminality by our elite classes don’t inspire much in the way of optimism.

So why do we bother? Or do we? Many don’t bother if the prevalence of the low information voter is any guide - which I think it is. Many opt for ignorance, platitudes and superficiality and maybe for some that's another shelter. It shelters one from having to admit that political reality is as awful as it seems.

Ties, habits, mortgages and familiarity also help to keep our eyes averted and our noses to the grindstone even though we know public life should be more honest and involving.

And yet...

A pool of sunlight on the table, early morning birdsong, a good book or good conversation – these essentially spiritual satisfactions help make up for it - if only temporarily.

So effective are such pleasant distractions, that I often wonder why I don’t just switch off, go for long hill walks or sit in comfort and follow my literary tastes with a glass of wine at my elbow and some early jazz on the music box.

Well why not?

It’s either that or keep facing up to a world where the elite classes are grasping liars, where the tax system is rigged to bribe vested interests. A world where government bribery is by far the largest business, a world lies are the first port of call in any public communication.

And yet...

Maybe it is actually rather enjoyable to puncture the pomposity of the elite even though they are not listening. Our Prime Minister is a lightweight fool, but there is satisfaction to be gained from knowing it and saying so publicly.

Yes there is satisfaction there - no doubt about it.

Not necessarily grim satisfaction either, not when we have sarcasm, satire, ridicule and laughter among our weapons. Maybe it’s why the buggers never manage to grind us down.

We enjoy not being ground down.


Sam Vega said...

Excellent post, AKH, which cheered me up. There is a view, of course, that our "natural state" is about the pleasures and trials of domesticity and the contemplation of everyday life. Most of the world's population have lived that way, paying little attention to politics and the "elites". There was an attempt, starting around the time of the introduction of newspapers and radio, to make us think that we ought to be living vicariously through the antics of our elite. But that was just their attempt to ensnare us. They are personality-disordered exhibitionists who need us more than we need them. That time is drawing to a close. Being able to witness politicians is like having neighbours who enjoy sex on their patio when they think you are watching. Occasionally, I will watch for a bit, if they have discovered an interesting new routine. Normally, though, I have my wood pile and allotment to think about...

A K Haart said...

Sam - yes they are disordered exhibitionists, although I do think they need a few boos and rotten tomatoes every now and then.