Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Name is A. Lynn, and I am a Pessimist

For some reason or another, I was just thinking about pessimism/optimism. Frequently, I am poked fun at because I am an eternal pessimist. However, I've decided to embrace this fact about myself, because I have come to realize that nothing is ever as simple as a dichotomy. The way I see it there are several categories of pessimism/optimism.

1) Present optimist: Someone who thinks that things are great right now, and doesn't see any reason for improvement. The "present" part of the title I've given is because this type of person is either not thinking or not concerned about the future. Basically, this is complacency, and incredibly dangerous, in my opinion.

2) Unrelenting pessimist: This is someone who is forever pessimistic. Think: "It all sucks anyway, no matter what we do...what's the point?" kind of mentality. This is essentially the same as someone who is a present optimist, in regards to what they actually do for the world. Present optimists see no room for improvement, and unrelenting pessimists see no point in attempting improvement. Equally dangerous, just a whole lot more depressing to be around.

3) Future optimist: Now this brand of optimist thinks things are great, but they are not so naive as to believe that things couldn't be get better. These are the people out there who are forever striving for more with a smile. This is the kind of optimism that is productive and sees the world through the hope of what it could be.

4) Realistic pessimist: And now you've arrived at me. Realistic pessimists are people who accept the ills of the world as a starting place for potential improvement. They are essentially the same as future optimists in what they want to accomplish, but how the view the state of the world is different. While a future optimist and a present optimist both might say, "Look how far we've come!" Unrelenting pessimists and realistic pessimists would both say, "Yeah, but think about (insert current social ill and a wah-wah Debbie Downer sound)" But where the realistic pessimists and the future optimists unite, is that they both then say, "OK! Let's do something about that!"

So that's me, for those of you playing at home. When I seem like I really emphasize the bad in our world (poverty, sexism, racism, heterosexism, exploitation, control, abuse, genocide, and all the other things I worry about) it's only because I know we could all be doing better.

I like writing strange things like this. Of course, I think there are many other different kinds of people who don't necessarily fit into these categories, but it was fun coming up with the beginnings of a spectrum of pessimism/optimism.