Down with Pessimism!

 Posted by at 05:57  Down with
Sep 192013
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“I’d be astounded if this planet is still going by 50 years from now. I don’t think we will reach 2000. It would be miraculous.” Alistair Cook

Alistair was the spokesman for the BBC Masterpiece Theater Productions on PBS for twenty years until the 90’s. He was the epitome of British erudition for middle brow Americans in the 70’s and 80’s where he would introduce each episode of those classy TV shows. I never knew that he was also a credible reporter and an American by choice but he represented British class for me growing up. Apparently he was a pessimist as well. Despite his pessimism, he lived to the ripe old age of 96, fathered Janis Joplin’s manager and confidant and lived in a rent-controlled New York apartment until his death. He didn’t die until 2004 well after his predicted end of the world. There is no record that he revised his drop dead date.

Alistair Cooke, March 18, 1974 interview
Image via Wikipedia

It is fashionable to be pessimistic. It is also hip and cool to be pessimistic. It is also safe to be pessimistic because nobody ever demands that you pay the price when those predictions are wrong. Look at Malthus and Paul Ehrlich who were sure that over population would destroy the plant momentarily. We are in far greater risk from under population than over population these days and the economic damage of low fertility is apparent in Japan and Europe. China is overpopulated with horny young men because of their one child birth control program but the regime still thrives. Pessimism may be costly but no one ever seems to pay the price for it.

It’s the same story with the doom and gloom about the health of our poor planet. I can’t get excited about the idea that anything done by man will have much of an impact on the earth’s health. Every dramatic change in the past has been caused by some cataclysm much more significant than anything man can do. The earth may end as we know it at any moment but if it does, it won’t be because of anything I did or didn’t do. Nevertheless we glorify anybody who suggests that the earth is going to hell in a hand basket and beat ourselves up about plastic grocery bags.

The evidence is pretty good that the pessimists are wrong. They might appear right in the short run but the planet and the human race seem intent on continuing to keep going strong. You may get short run satisfaction with pessimism. You might get adulation and money like Al Gore. Still you have to remember the long term. If you are a pessimist like old Alistair, be careful about publishing your predictions. You might just out live them.


Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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  5 Responses to “Down with Pessimism!”

  1. I said something negative one time (Who? Lil’ ol’ me?) and was admonished that I shoule be positive. I said “I am positive…positive that crap is going to happen.”

    In all seriousness, I’m fairly positive on most things.

    As for the doom and gloom about our planet, I don’t think it’s pessimism as much as arrogance that causes folks to predict man’e destroying the earth. I consider it arrogance to blieve such an insignificant little nothing like mankind can destroy the huge magnificence of the earth.

    One tiny little speck that exists for one tiny little blip in time?


  2. I think I am generally a pretty optimistic person. Things do not always come out sunshine and moonbeams, and I realize that, but life will take the basic form of what you try to make it.

    If you are sure you live under a black cloud and fate is out to get you…sure enough the universe may conspire.

    If you believe that everything will work out in the end… well bad stuff will still happen… but for the most part things will turn out for the best

  3. Bob,
    I’m down on arrogance too, except for mine.

  4. Steve,
    I think you have this right. A good attitude and positive expectations will get you through most anything.

  5. I try to keep my arrogance in check…except in the presence of liberal progressives…and stay in a holding pattern in the area of cockiness.

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