is not, in fact, pressimism. It is realism.
I find the “be happy” crowd odd. We have, in the past few years, seen millions of Americans and Europeans impoverished and lose their homes. We are seeing a wave of austerity in the 1st world which has and will impoverish many millions more. In the last quarter of 2011, Greece was on track for -7% annualized GDP growth. Civil liberties are under assault throughout the world, and the surveillance state is tightening its grasp. In the forseeable future, and one which is, now, almost unstoppable, we can expect to lose hundreds of millions of lives to climate change, and that, frankly, is the optimistic scenario, one which is almost certain not to occur. A billion is a good middling number, and it could easily go much higher. Many climate scientists believe we are beyond the point of no return.
None of what has happened, or which will happen, couldn’t have been stopped. For decades, with increasing stridency, prophets have warned of what would happen. Those prophets, in the grand Cassandric tradition, were ignored.
The left, virtually the world around, with the exception of Latin America, is in disarray and retreat, suffering defeat after defeat, from economic populist issues to civil liberties issues (other than gay rights). The forces of reaction, once aiming only at the edifices of mid 20th century liberalism, are now aiming to roll back the twentieth century en-masse, getting rid of socialized medicine (under assault even in England), child labor laws, reinstituting debtors prisons and celebrating inequality which exceeds even that of the gilded age. Gays may gain the right to marry, women may keep the franchise (and be allowed to vote between parties who will do the same thing at varying paces), but we will all be impoverished, largely powerless and watched 24 hours a day together.
Dystopian? Apocalyptic? Perhaps. But also the current trendline. Now, trendlines can always change. Indeed, trendlines do always change. This will not last, this era will come to an end. The questions are when, how, and what will replace it.
Living, then, in a period where many are still prosperous, but with the first storm clouds scudding over the horizon, and the first casualties falling, I find it odd to continually have to deal with the “be happy”, “optimism is superior” crowd. I find neither optimism nor pessimism interesting. What is interesting and what is needed is realism.
Realistically, what is going to happen? Why has what happened, happened? Why are events unfolding as they have? Part of the reason is the corruption of discourse: part of the reason is the happy talk. Hey, your life is good, everything’s fine, so be happy. Go about your life oblivious to what has happened, is happening and will happen.
I’m not interested in happy talk. Never have been. I am not interested in “reasons to be optimistic” or “reasons to be pessimistic”. I am interested in the most likely scenarios and questions of what can be done to change the likely course of event so fewer people suffer and die.
I will note another thing. My failures of prediction, and I now have years of data, have almost all been on the upside. I make mistakes when I pull my punches. People who think I’m a pessimist are fools. My record indicates the opposite, if I have a bias, it is towards optimism, to things not becoming as bad as they have. I think this is because I keep expecting people to protect their own future interests (not very future, often just a couple years) better than they do. I forget just how completely depraved our elites are, and how weak and debased the populations have become by the great complacency. Most who came of age in the post-war period in the developed world, who did not have to fight for every scrap, simply are not capable of truly believing in disaster or catastrophe, or of forestalling it even if they do.
Finally, I have nothing but contempt for most of the current generation of intellectuals, thinkers, and members of any elite. They have demonstrably failed their job, if their job is conceived as serving the truth and looking after the common weal: of telling people what they need to hear and finding a way to make them understand. Some have fought the yeoman’s good fight, and lost and there is honor in that, but most did not even fight. Instead the spewed lies and reaped the rewards. They were complicit with the political and economic elites, they took their share of the loot, a petty pence, and wrote what would please their masters. They will be exorciated by history, but in the current day, they have their silver gripped firmly in their hands, as they lope behind and before their masters, making the world safe for oligarchy, poverty and the new despotism of the modern security state.
They deserve no respect, and I will give them none. Their reward is the false flattery of their peers and the tarnished silver of their masters, the true gold of intellectual integrity or the gold of compassion and care for their fellows, these will be denied them.
And I watch the scudding storm clouds, and I feel the wind whip around me and it is to these signs and others I attend, not the fools crying “life is good! It’ll be ok!”
No, it will not be ok.