Pessimism…like that will ever work out

History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen


I once was dating a girl who was a pessimist. She was a nice foil to my unrelenting optimism. A quote that she enjoyed was, “Being a pessimist works out for me. I’m either right, or pleasantly surprised.” ┬áThis to me sounds like a coward. Who would take pleasure in being right that bad things happen? More importantly though, it’s the reason behind human progress.

Optimism is the reason for any human advancement that has been ever made. You can pick anything, the printing press, the internet, cars, TV shows, even religion as an institution. All made based on the simple belief that “this will be good.” Otherwise…why make it? The man who invented the toaster didn’t think “this is going to be a disaster┬áso bad, I can’t wait to finish it!”

We make things, do things, and say things all in the attempt that they will benefit others or ourselves. Unless we’re clinically depressed or masochists, we don’t go around doing things that negatively affect our lives.

The most important time to be an optimist is when we’re young. There’s something confusing about a teenager or a twenty something who’s a pessimist. That’s a lot of life to live if you think things won’t turn out great.

Another ex girlfriend of mine had a mother develop cancer while we were dating. I was 19 at the time and when she broke the news to me, I thought the best thing to say was “well it’s going to be okay!” However…there’s not a right thing to say when you think your mother is going to die. Her mother did end up being okay but she was so filled with pessimism she didn’t want to hear that. She kept saying that I didn’t know that and was just trying to say nice things.

I don’t know what a better thing to say would be though, “well that sucks should we pick out a grave tomorrow?” Besides leading to human improvement, optimism and pessimism lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Or in other words, sometimes just because you think something won’t turn out well it may not. This happens a lot with sports. If you were on a poor sports team or were a poor athlete, you will have the mentality that you will probably lose. Why play better if you’ll probably lose? However if you are on a good sports team or are a star you’ll think that you will win then you’ll want to play to your fullest ability and probably pull off the victory.

Obviously this doesn’t always work. Sometimes poor players and teams rise to an occasion and sometimes good players and teams don’t do enough to win. But it can be the case sometimes. I explained this to the girlfriend with the mother who had cancer about hope. Hope can help lead to a positive self-fulling prophecy. Hope, while intangible can be incredibly powerful, especially with health. If you’re optimistic about a recovery or a diagnosis and your mindset is resilient your body will be. If you’re stricken with cancer and you let it get you down the body will respond as such. Alternatively if you’re stricken with cancer and you’re hopeful you will recover then your body will be resilient.

Again, this is not 100%, hope is not the key to immorality but it can be the difference between life and death in beatable diagnoses.

This mindset is much easier said than felt though. Older people laugh at the optimism that some younger people have, calling it naive. Sometimes they’re right, there is a fine line between optimism and naivety. However, there’s also a fine line between pessimism and cynicism. Being optimistic with hard work is how to stop being naive. Thinking that something will work out with out any work to make that thing happen is being naive. The airplane wasn’t invented by the Wright brothers by just dreaming and hoping that they’ll make an airplane. They went and made the airplane. I wonder what else could have been made if people who were naive put in the work to be optimistic.

With an optimistic mind set, hard work, and creativity there’s millions of things that we’ve done and endless possibilities of what we can do. With a track record of that why would anyone be pessimist…it probably won’t lead to anything anyways.

The Problem with Being Colorblind

History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen


One of my guilty pleasures as I’ve said before is online debating. It’s pointless in the end and can get me to lose my cool. But for the positives it does keep me up to date on the latest news, and controversies, and it’s nice to hear a variety of opinions on issues… unless they’re dumb.

Political topics usually run along broad categories of foreign affairs, domestic policies, economics, politicians, and… race. Race has seemed to become it’s own political category of it’s own though it can touch a lot of other categories. Sometimes there is manufactured outrage over some racial issue and sometimes it’s genuine. The latest racial “outrage” I couldn’t help but laugh at.

Michelle Obama, who I generally like, made the statement “Black girls rock” …that’s it. Not black girls are better than white girls, or black girls are smarter, or stronger or any other comparison. Just that they rock.

Ah… and oh the outrage that followed. “WHAT ABOUT WHITE GIRLS?!” “DOESN’T SHE CARE ABOUT ALL GIRLS?!” …obviously she does.

But I get it. If Lara Bush shouted “White girls rock” it would sound bad. So what’s with the double standard?

It’s historical and a numbers game. Black people represent a small percentage of Americans (about 12%) yet a disproportionate number of people in poverty, in prison, drop outs. Saying black girls rock doesn’t mean white girls, or any other type of girls suck. Though it is odd that it’s not Hispanics or Asians voicing outrage…

This is part of a larger trend. It is approaching “race” from different areas. Many who lean on the right want to be “done” with race. That race shouldn’t matter, we should all be colorblind, and everyone’s the same. This would be great..if everyone was there too. But we’re not. This approach cannot answer for racism, both subtlety or institutionally existing. So when confronted with facts like blacks and Hispanics make up a disproportionate number of the prison population they can’t say that it was because of any institutional racism (because to them it doesn’t exist) so they must just be naturally bad…which is a racist argument.

It lacks a historical understanding and leads to ignorant questions like “Why is there a BET” “Why is there a black student union” Different races are just that, different. This is not to say that one is superior or inferior but there are different cultures that come with races. To ignore that is to ignore someone’s identity. To be color blind is to be blind to a part of someone’s identity.

Colorblindness sounds good though right. Let’s just treat everyone equally so no one will be racist. The treating people equally is right but for the wrong reasons. Acknowledging race doesn’t make you a racist, it makes you human. Talking about race doesn’t make you racist, it makes you informed.

If person A was born in a ghetto in the South Side of Chicago, and Person B was born in the Hamptons, who do you think has the greatest chance of being successful? What races do you believe person and A and B are? Probably, but not certainly Black and White respectively. Blacks, disproportionately are born into disadvantaged areas and whites are not. Whites have also run this country in terms of politics, business, religion, and owning other blacks for much of this nation’s history so when you say “White’s rock!” It has a stinging tone to it because white people are already at such an advantage and historically have been so it’s salt on historic wounds.

There’s also no real “white culture” in America. Some of our ancestors were fleeing famines, others came to start businesses, some worked their way to the top, some never made it rich. There are 10000 different stories of white immigration and status in America. There is 1 for blacks, enslavement. There’s Irish pride, or Italian pride, those are flaunted without the slightly thought that they would be offensive to blacks. There’s even a holiday dedicated to Irish pride, where it doesn’t matter if you’re Irish or not.

There’s nothing wrong in being proud of who you are or your heritage…provided that heritage wasn’t based on racial supremacy. Black girls can “rock” without hurting white girls chances of “rocking.” Race isn’t a zero sum game. If blacks gain whites that whites have, white’s don’t lose those rights. Treating people equally is great. Treating people equally by being blind to our differences is not. Diversity and differences don’t have to be bad. In fact they should be acknowledged, and celebrated, they help us understand each other and the world we live in.