There’s a lot of talk about the system lately, and most of it is critical and heated. Our financial and fiscal crises have launched a debate on how viable our current models are, pointing toward great ongoing upheavals, immense power shifts, volatility in the market, uncertainty among the population, political friction, and a globe in transition.
Pressed for time, we seek answers but they’re proving hard to find.
The reasons for this are many, and the problems deep and well known by now. From rampant pollution and debt accumulation to resource scarcity and energy frenzy, we tumble down a vicious circle that seems geared to break the system. We’ve staved off disaster, so far, which is good, let’s take that in. The optimists among us insist that we’ll soon return to growth and to life as we knew it.
The realists, on the other hand, know that we won’t. Things will change, they always do.
The pessimists think that we’re all going to die, and the cynics believe it’s about time.
Let’s take these four points of view one by one, starting with the cynics. They believe that every civilization has a natural cycle to it, a point after which things lean to toward entropy and collapse. Progress can only go so far within a given system without affecting that system’s ability to move forward. At some point the machine sputters and falters, imploding under the weight of its over-complicated setup, everything grinding to a halt. The system collapses and power shifts to the next civilization.
It’s an argument which history backs up, its ages strewn with civilizations rising and falling to the beat of life in transition.
It’s also a viewpoint the pessimists share, with one small difference. They think this is it, the last cycle of them all. It’s reasonable and expected, part of nature, and at the same time an unhinged and horrific prospect, an unexpected aberration, but it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that the end is coming.
Let us pause and reflect on these two points of view. A quick glance reveals that despite their common expectations regarding a groundbreaking change, pessimists have a negative view of it, fearing the worst, whereas cynics regard it as nothing other than the inevitable workings of a system in transition.
In other words, the former give in to the situation whereas the latter embrace it. The pessimists are negative while the pessimists play along, ready for the next cycle.
Moving on to the next two points of view … On the one hand, there’s the realists who love to observe what takes place around them with care and scrutiny, taking it all in and weighing the facts in a way that accounts for what’s really going on. Unfazed by the gravity of the situation, or by their need to search for a silver lining, and in control of their emotions in all cases, negative or positive, they adapt to what’s out there in a conscious attempt to stay with the process and come out on top. Reality can’t be dealt with if not confronted, is their approach.
Enter the optimists, who see the upside to everything. Are things going bad? No problem, we’ll fix them. Everything’s backfiring? Don’t worry, it’ll straighten out in time. There’s a big gaping hole in our way and little room to maneuver? Now that’s what I’m talking about! It’ll force us to adapt to emergency situations and make us stronger. Just stay the course, and fear nothing.
At first, these two viewpoints, realism and optimism, sound more or less alike, geared toward a constructive approach to things, but a brief comparison reveals that they have less in common than the other two, differing at key points.
Realists, for example, see things as they are and deal with them according to where they believe reality points at. If they perceive things to be heading toward a slump, they accept that slump as part of the process and roll with it. If, on the other hand, they have a more upbeat impression of things, they note it down and work toward the improvement of the situation. If they see things neutrally, they simply go along with the flow. Whatever the case, one thing applies: realists assess the situation through what they think is most likely to happen, putting their personal emotions, ambitions and expectations on the side. Their perceptions and decisions are framed by logic and guided by probability.
Not so for optimists. This brand of people are set on finding positives no matter the circumstances. A setback is either something that will be rectified or something that will offer another opportunity, making one stronger and wiser in the process. It’s all a matter of ambition, courage, and spirited delusion.
So where does that leave us? With all four types of people involved in this dynamic, and countless personal opinions rising from each type, what should we opt for during these testing times?
The answer is a little bit of everything. Each group has merit.
Cynics, for example, have their finger on the pulse, recognizing the natural, inbuilt workings of system dynamics. They understand that nothing lasts forever, that change and adaptation are inevitable, and their viewpoint is helpful when we need to dislodge ourselves from dysfunctional arrangements and utopian nonsense.
Realists, on the other hand, tend to examine facts with a cooler head than cynics, offering themselves a little more leeway. Rather than be guided by historical done-deals, they assess the situation based on present rather than past data, opening up the possibility of doing things in ways that prove history wrong, setting the bar a little higher each time.
Optimists go even further. Driven by the need to excel and make something good out of something bad, and at risk of breaking their necks, they never let go. It may not be a reasonable approach at times, but their spirit is useful when things look dire or impossible to surpass. They lay out visions that fly against all probability in order to achieve the impossible and set the bar even higher, beyond all expectation.
As for the pessimists, they serve the most important purpose of all: they’re there to scare the hell out of the rest and remind us what not to end up like.
Because life’s too precious to spend wallowing in the mire.
And there we have it. We’ve examined four major types of attitude and how they affect the way we shape the world.
Note: How this translates into what needs to be done to get out of the crisis we’re in – and how we approach life in general – is something we’ll examine in future articles. In the meantime here’s the story of four friends in a pub to put things in perspective:
A says, my glass is half empty, time for another one. B says, my glass is half full, I’m ok for now. C says, we’re going to get drunk anyway so we might as well order now – and D gets up and leaves because the mood’s wrong and everything sucks.
1) source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
2) source: http://b-splendid.blogspot.com
3) source: http://bringingupkate.blogspot.com/
4) source: http://www.windows2universe.org