Saturday, May 06, 2006

The case for optimism

THE NOISE OF CARPET
Stereolab


I hate to see your broken face
this world would give you anything
as long as you will want to

I hate your state of hopelessness

and that vain articulateness
your loser-type wreck wanna-be
not a pretty sight really

in another world it'd be funny

I hate to see your broken face

a lazy life of fatal waste
of fashionable cynicism
the poison they want you to drink
oh no man that's too easy

we weren't talking bout happiness

apply your leading potential

to be useful to this planet

the world would give you anything
as long as you will want to

There were no "good 'ole days". That was childhood- or more accurately, our memory of childhood. It's over. It wasn't a cohesive, universal historical era, it was a certain period in all of our individual lives. For the majority of us, our introduction to life is gentle. We are given a certain amount of time to enjoy ourselves in blissful quasi-ignorance while we almost imperceptibly begin to learn how to function within ourselves and with the various types of people we will inevitably share the planet with. Then, we begin to evolve into full-fledged, complex individuals whose past and present shape our future. For those of us living in pluralistic, democratic societies, this process is virtually boundless. In general, if you're a decent person without malicious intent, you can do pretty much anything you want. And it is this very fact that allows me to be a realist and simultaneously cautiously optimistic about our world.

Undoubtedly, the world has become more complex than it was, say, in 1650. Yes, we have developed the capacity to destroy the planet relatively easily. However, I think it is important to note that a for someone living in the 17th century, the world was an infinitely smaller place in every way- the physical "world" for the average person was essentially their immediate vicinity perhaps more importantly, their psychological world was largely pre-determined, through religion, class, gender, etc..

The fact that we have created a rather precise vocabulary of self-definition is a beautiful thing. Being a homo, I am intimately aware of this and am conscious of the fact that the word homosexual did not exist until the 19th century. My sexual identity is not confined to a sexual behaviour, but rather, informs multiple aspects of my being. Same with my Greek-Canadian heritage and the million other things that constitute me. The fact that we can now create, shape and determine our selves is enormously important to me.

The world has always had a shitty side. Our age is no different, but the stakes are higher. On an individual level, however, humans have never had it this good. When we think of the past, we are primarily relating to it through notable "events" and consequently, become distanced from the mundane aspects of daily life. The truth is that much of society hasn't changed that much since the dawn of civilization. However, we now have the knowledge, resources, numbers and mentality to see beyond survival and strive towards betterment. Again, this is where the optimism arises- if you don't like something, try to change it, remove yourself from it, ignore it or whatever. The fact that we have choices is hugely important. The fact that we collectively know enough about the world to be able to discuss complex issues is also hugely important.

Life before the 20th century was not fun. The 20th century brought both horror and greatness. I think that the good outweighed the bad. In saying this, I recognize that I am speaking from a Western point of view, but alas, this is the only view I can say I know.

Basically, I am very happy that I can create my identity on my terms, that I live a largely healthy and comfortable life and that I am aware of the general state of the human race. I think that is much more preferable to being an illiterate peasant toiling incessantly to merely survive and having an entire planet doing the same thing in largely isolated pockets.

Like the lyrics above say I'm not talking about happiness and we are all a mess, personally and collectively. But at least we know that there is a personal and a collective and that they are messes.
Truly, "knowing is half the battle". I cannot believe that I seriously quoted GI Joe, but he's spot on. And he'd probably be hot if he were human.


3 Comments:

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Niko said...

Thnak you for that. :-)

 
At 1:28 AM, Blogger PDD said...

This is a good little essay.

The last three letters on word verification is again, pdd.

 
At 4:25 AM, Blogger Genet said...

Niko: I hope it made sense... I hadn't really said anything of substance on the blog for a while and began to fear that I was dumbing-down. I now feel better.

PDD: You know what else is good? My cock.

 

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