In Praise of Pessimism


When I was growing up I came to realize I was two things, an introvert, and a pessimist. Neither of these things are culturally valued. Some still believe that introversion and pessimism are inherently wrong and must be remedied. Meanwhile, introverts continued to mind their own business (wishing everyone else would mind theirs) and the pessimists held the opinion that people will never change.

Thankfully, the internet is making it easier for us to fight back.

Over the last few years, it seems people are coming to an understanding about introverts. Introversion is no longer thought (entirely) as a terrible fate. It is a lifestyle. I enjoy my solitude when I want it, and having my friends around when I want it. The primary barrier seems to have been there wasn't a forum in which we could properly explain to these outgoing oddballs that there's nothing wrong with us. Now there are how-to manuals like Caring for your Introvert. The perception the culture has of introverts is changing.

Perhaps then, it is only inevitable that culture will change to accept pessimism. Like introverts, there are plenty of cultural myths about pessimists: They aren't successful, they aren't pleasant, it creates needless worry, and my personal favorite, it isn't "realistic". (Pessimism can be frightfully realistic, just ask any business traveler for their airport horror stories.) Now it seems, we're fighting back again via the Internet.

This morning I came across two short, but fascinating articles on The Myths of Pessimism. Both take on three culturally held myths about the half-empty side of things. Mythbusting Myths on Pessimism #1 seems somewhat less convincing than Mythbusting Myths on Pessimism #2. Mostly this is because part #1 examines larger issues and does not provide evidence to back up it's claim. Part #2 seems much more sensible. Both articles together suggest the same: Pessimism is a lifestyle, not a disease.

I find it wonderful how the internet can become a force for understanding and cultural change. For every group of idiots spouting hate and misunderstanding, there are several more groups that fight back, fostering understanding that would have been difficult in person. Hopefully such trends will continue, that is, if we don't blow ourselves up or poison the atmosphere first.