Pessimists and Peter – Jack Morgan Jones
Peter Hitchens has a pessimistic view on modern Britain. When Exeposé ran an interview with the outspoken journalist, he defended his pessimism, asking why “should I be ashamed?”
Should we treat pessimism itself with an optimistic glow or pessimistic reproach? It seems to me that it doesn’t matter whether you are a pessimist or an optimist – the glass has enough water in it either way. However, it does seem to be important that one grounds one’s pessimism honestly. Peter Hitchens is adverse to “Utopian idealists”. But while he views such characters as disasters, I suspect he thinks like an idealist more then he lets on – for there is no necessary chasm separating idealism from pessimism.
In a recent twitter discussion he and I exchanged views on the relationship between drug taking and rampage killing. He argued, “rampage killings were virtually unknown before mind altering drugs came into use”. So are mind-altering drugs the cause of rampage killings? In the context of the shooting-sprees of today, it should be remembered that hallucinogens were in use long before the weaponry of today – hence the deadly ‘hashashins’. Might the cause not be modern weaponry instead then? Just imagine how long it would take for the aspiring nihilist to reload his 18th century musket. Enough time for everyone to run away first and come back to rush him later. Doesn’t allow for much of a ‘rampage’ at all. And might there not have also been other constraints on gunning down people in shopping malls, such as the lack of 19th century shopping malls?
Hitchens tweeted: “almost all of these rampage killers are known drug users”
I twitted: “so take away the drugs and the rampage killings wont happen?”
Hitchens tweeted: “Certainly true of Paris, both Charlie Hebdo and latest”
In his blogs, Peter Hitchens is more careful not to completely negate the role of fanaticism. But for him it is fanaticism’s combination with drugs that makes it truly deadly. This is idealistic – conflating mind-altering drugs to an equal partner alongside fanatical ideology. This can be proven with a simple thought-experiment. Let’s allow Hitchens the hypothetical that all rampages involve drugs. Now let’s take Hebdo. Take away the drugs and that killing would still have occurred. Take away the ideology and that killing would probably not have occurred. How can I be so sure? Because lots of people take drugs and don’t shoot people. Oh, and I take the murders at their own word too.
Peter Hitchens may not be an idealist in practice, but he might still think like an idealist. A product of the late 20th century, his type think in extremes, and so drugs for him becomes a salient part of a problem that they don’t really belong to. Separately, idealism and pessimism are fine, but combine the two and unacknowledged idealism will corrupt the acknowledged pessimism. So, until the day comes when Peter Hitchens announces himself to be an idealist, this pessimistic thought-piece will remain vindicated.
Reckless Optimism – Tom Nejad
The wisdom of viewing the glass as half empty is becoming increasingly invaluable in a world stained by rose tinted glasses. The absurdly painful optimism splattered across society by the saccharine filters of social media and advertisers hoping to sell you junk.
Alain de Botton in his book Religion For Atheists is that the most dominant characteristic, and greatest flaw, of a society grounded in technological development is it’s optimism. This can be attributed to the fact that we are too focused on trying to build an earthly paradise to appreciate the everyday miracles. There is an irrational devotion to a narrative of unwavering belief that quality of life is continually improving. But assuming that everything will eventually be solved arguably breeds complacency.
Citizens of the USA are coached from birth to have the most steadfast optimism, in what they can accomplish in their working lives and expect from relationships forging optimism to the point of delusion. The burgeoning generation has not only been brought up on this but also have been led to believe in their own individual superiority. A paradox develops in which everyone believes themselves to be special but ultimately cannot be, due to the very definition of exceptional.
However, permanent pessimists can afford a smug satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that they’re either always right or going to be pleasantly surprised. A pessimistic worldview does not have to be one that dictates a life without joy. On the contrary, a more balance and reasoned expectation of what life will throw at you will ultimately lead to a greater peace with the world around you. A perfect example of how to achieve this steadiness can be found in Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean which dictates the equilibrium between two extremes provides the greatest satisfaction. Thus the intermediary of optimism and pessimism is realism the adoption of which can only serve to better contentment. So do yourself a favour, lower expectations and increase happiness.