Optimist, Pessimist or Realist

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Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I have a good friend who always says that he leans towards being a “guy whose glass is half-full.”  I guess he is a pessimist.  I know I am married to an optimist, because whenever I say anything negative about anyone, she will provide a contrasting optimistic perspective.  I tend to believe that I lean towards pessimism.  I like to think that I am a realist.  When someone asks me if my glass is half-full or half-empty my answer will depend on whether my glass is being filled up or emptied.  Nevertheless, I suspect many would find that my blogs reflect a rather negative view of life and humanity.

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Climate Change:

Pessimist: “The end is near; the end is near.  We have destroyed the world with carbon pollution, and it is too late to do anything about it.  Nature magazine published a study which shows that Global Warming stated as early as 1830 CE.”

Optimist: “There is still time to do something about climate change.  Humanity has faced disasters before, and we always overcome them.  They thought that we would destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, but we learned to use other strategies to deal with our differences.”

Realist: “Maybe we have just been lucky.”

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Corrupt Government:

Pessimist:  Politicians since the days of Plato and Socrates have always been corrupt.  There is no such thing as an honest politician.  Lying comes naturally to all politicians and the truth is only an inconvenience for most of them.  Politicians have become worse and worse over the years in terms of lacking morality and ethics.  They will always do what is expedient and they are all amoral.”

Optimist: “How can you make such a blanket generalization?  There have been many good politicians and many or them are very honest and moral.  Look at Marcus Aurelius, Rómulo Betancourt, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammadu Buhari.  These men were all honest leaders who fought for the welfare of their people and did it selflessly.  They were capable, incorruptible leaders who made a real difference in the lives of their followers.

Realist: “You win some and you lose some.  On the whole, it would seem that we have more leaders like Trump than we do leaders like Gandhi.”

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Education:

Pessimist: “Pouring money into education is a waste of time.  Kids are learning less today than they did in the early days of public education.  Half the kids in school are bored.  Teacher turnover is at an all time high and classrooms are chaotic.  Parents do not support teacher discipline anymore.  Schools have become jails for most students who would rather be home.  Kids today do not see the value in education because parents do not.  Schools are just factories for the more privileged to come out and get the high paying jobs in society while the rest of the pack will work for Walmart or McDonalds.”

Optimist: “We live in a more educated society today then even twenty years ago.  Education has been responsible for raising the standard of living the world over.  People are living longer than ever because of scientific advances in hygiene, medicine, and public health.  Without education, we would still be dying in our mid-forties instead of in our mid-seventies.  Kids today learn different things then when we were in school.  They are more visually literate, and computers have been a new tool that students today are using to change the world for the better.”

Realist: “We seem to take two steps forward and one back.  For every pro about education today, there is a con.  For every pro about technology there is a con.  We need to have a broader perspective on change that will enable us to embrace new ideas and let go of old ideas that no longer work.”  We simply keep adding pages to school textbooks without taking any out.”

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I could go on and on with examples of the quite different outlooks that life provides us.  Who is right?  I doubt that we will ever really know.  Many of the old sayings exist to provide us with some direction on how to live.  A friend of mine tried to convince me that writing should be positive and inspirational.  His motto was, “You catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  According to my friend, people will ignore writing that is too dismal and negative.  It is his opinion that writers should provide a path forward to growth and development.  I told another friend the other day that “hope without action is hopeless.”  It is not enough to just hope for change, you need to do something about it.  I like to think that my writings provide a path forward.

Nevertheless, we are all familiar with the concept of being too “Pollyannish.”  Someone who is too Pollyannish always sees the positive in everything.  Pushing the envelope on optimism they become extremists who see a bright spot in every dark endeavor.  We sometimes refer to these people as wearing “rose colored” glasses.  A realist would argue that sometimes a bright spot does not exist.

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My writing instructor, Dr. Wedin informed our class a few weeks ago that the story of Pollyanna, a 1913 novel written by American author Eleanor H. Porter, has been grossly misrepresented.  In common usage, a Pollyannish person is someone who is too unrealistic about life and its difficulties.  I decided to watch one of the many movies based on the novel and found a quite different interpretation of young Miss Pollyanna.  One that I assume was more in line with the novel.  In the movie, Pollyanna is a young girl who faces her share of joys and unhappiness.  However, remembering what her father told her, she always tries to find a bright spot in life regardless of how difficult things may be going for her.  Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father.

As a man who has leaned strongly towards pessimism for most of my life, I found myself admiring Pollyanna’s attitude and efforts.  They say pessimists live longer lives but optimists live happier lives.  There is something about pessimism that wears one down and tires others out.  Friends, family, spouses, siblings, and children all have a difficult time being around someone who is relentlessly pessimistic.  Just as hope without action is useless, pessimism without a plan to change things is depressing, gloomy and dreary.  Would you rather be around a pessimist or an optimist?

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But what about our third choice?  Would you want to choose a realist for a life partner?  Is this the Golden Mean that the Greeks worshipped?  I think not.  The problem with being a so-called realist is twofold.  The first problem is that realism must be based on a foundation of facts and evidence.  Herein, you can immediately understand the problem.  It is difficult if not impossible to obtain evidence that will prove irrefutable and reliable.  Life is full of lies, half-truths, unsubstantiated facts and impossible to find evidence.

The second problem with realism is that it is not useful without a path forward or some means of making sense out of reality.  Knowing reality is meaningless if you cannot do something about it.  Finding the best path forward always involves a number of decisions that go beyond the facts.  For instance, if I decide that my car needs a new engine, will it be more cost effective to purchase a replacement engine or buy a new car?  You might be able to work out an equation to make this decision, but I guarantee you that there will be several unknowns in your equation.  Every unknown impacts the outcome of your decision making.  Then of course, there are what we call “unintended consequences.”  Charting the unknown, even realists must go into mysterious territory.

So we arrive back to where we started.  Would you rather be an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I would love to hear your comments on this question.  Please feel free to send me a reply.

Only send optimistic comments though.  😊

What About White Supremacy Makes You Feel Superior?

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I want to introduce you to a very remarkable woman.  Her name is Hazel Scott.  Hazel was born on June 11, 1920 and died on October 2, 1981.  I never heard of Ms. Scott until two nights ago.  They don’t teach you about people like Hazel in American schools. 

I was listening to a YouTube video featuring the pianist Dorothy Donegan.  Hazel Scott popped up as someone else I might be interested in listening to.  I listened to several of her videos which featured her playing both jazz and classical piano.  She also accompanied some pieces with her beautiful voice.  She is one of the most amazing piano players I have ever heard or not heard of.  I soon found out that Hazel was much more than just a fantastic musician. 

Curious as to her background, I got on my computer and found a Wikipedia which gave some of the details of her life.  (See Hazel Scott)

Hazel was a singer, pianist, and actor.  She was the first Black American to host her own TV show in 1950.  However, I am sure that if Hazel were still alive today and writing her eulogy, she would say “Don’t tell them, I was a singer and pianist.  Don’t tell them I was a Hollywood Actress.  Tell them I fought for the rights of Black Americans.  Tell them I refused privileges denied to my people.  Tell them I refused to play in segregated venues.  Tell them I refused to take roles that denigrated Black Americans.  Tell them I refused costumes that stereotyped Black people.  Tell them I used my money to bring lawsuits to challenge racial discrimination.”

In 1950, Hazel found out that she was on the suspicious list of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  A group that was on a notorious witch hunt against communists.   Whenever, I hear of this HUAC, I think of the birthday party in Alice in Wonderland. 

mad_hatters_party_large`I mean, what IS an un-birthday present?’

`A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.’

Alice considered a little. `I like birthday presents best,’ she said at last.

`You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. `How many days are there in a year?’

`Three hundred and sixty-five,’ said Alice.

`And how many birthdays have you?’

`One.’

`And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?’

`Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.’

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful. `I’d rather see that done on paper,’ he said.

Alice couldn’t help smiling as she took out her memorandum-book, and worked the sum for him:

`To be sure I was!’ Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. `I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right–though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now–and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents–‘

`Certainly,’ said Alice.

51cvn6Ui9oL._SX260_Do you see?  If everyday is a possible un-birthday except your birthday, you may celebrate an un-birthday every day and get presents every day in addition to your birthday.  Anything that is not “American” which I will assume includes:  Mom, God, and Apple Pie, can be construed as “Un-American.”  If you are out to condemn or harass people, it becomes an open-ended warrant to attack anyone who exhibits traits other than a belief in Mom, God, and Apple Pie.  You have a 365-day open house to attack anyone in the USA who exhibits a philosophy contrary to what might be termed “Patriotic.”  I find this rather scary since I don’ believe in God.  I don’t like apple pie and I thought my mother’s cooking was terrible.  My list of “Un-American” traits would take up several pages but I suppose I would be condemned simply on the basis of rejecting these wonderful characteristics of Americanism.  By the way, I don’t like baseball, golf, football, basketball, or bowling.

Let us get back to Ms. Scott.  She voluntarily appeared before the HUAC and defended her friends who were being targeted.  She denied having anything to do with communism but defended socialism.  She stood up proudly and defiantly in front of a group of fascists intending to end her career.  And that is exactly what they did.  One week after she appeared in front of the HUAC, her TV show was dropped from the network.  She was as they like to say today “Cancelled” by this group of so-called patriots.

These hypocrites who would label anyone who believed in social inequality as “Un-American” but never identified the KKK as Un-American.  These patriots would probably include the KKK with Mom, God, and Apple Pie and therefore call their activities American.  Nothing Un-American about prejudice, lynchings, racism, discrimination, and attacks on minorities.

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I put on some more of Hazel’s piano videos.  Mesmerized by her flashing hands and her joyous way of playing the piano, I thought of the White racists in America who feel that they are superior to Black people.  In my mind, I contrasted Hazel with a White Supremacist.

Hazel:  Talented pianist 

White Supremacist:  Can drink lots of light beer

Despite billions spent on diversity and inclusion, new research from the Center for Talent Innovation finds that black professionals face prejudice, a lack of support from managers, and a cycle of exclusion that keeps them from the C-suite –  New Study Takes an Unprecedented Look at Being Black in Corporate America

 

Hazel:  Concerned for others.  Fights for the rights of others

White Supremacist:  Hatred for others who are different

Who ever walked behind anyone to freedom? If we can’t go hand in hand, I don’t want to go. — Hazel Scott

Hazel:  Beautiful, elegant, aristocratic, cultured

White Supremacist:  Tattoos, beer belly, swastikas

 

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Hazel Scott on the cover of ‘Round Midnight.

Hazel:  Brave, Courageous, stands up for what she believes

White Supremacist:  Hides behind white sheets and a pointed white mask

 

Hazel:  Juilliard School of Music

White Supremacist:   Probably dropped out of high school

 

Hazel:  Multi-lingual

White Supremacist:  Hardly speaks good English

 

Is there an irony here or am I missing something?  The race hating, immigrant hating, neo-Nazis with little culture or education espouses a doctrine of White Supremacy because he/she thinks that they are superior to Ms. Hazel Scott.  I must be living in Wonderland.

 

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