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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Optimism is a political act
    Project: Polytopia
    Optimism is a political act.

    Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change. It is a long-standing political art to sow the seeds of mistrust between those you would rule over: as Machiavelli said, tyrants do not care if they are hated, so long as those under them do not love one another. Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful – cynicism is obedience.

    Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.

    Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.

    Alex Steffen in March 2008
    Via World Changing

    Mon, Oct 13, 2008  Permanent link
    Categories: polytopia, World Changing, Alex Steffen, Optimism
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    nom the puppet     Wed, Dec 3, 2008  Permanent link
    I agree with your statements and you put them so succinctly, but I do believe that cynicism does or did provide a very useful role in our approach towards a beneficial future. Rampant indiscriminate cynicism would shun most advances in thought and would generate the collective symptoms you described, but intelligent skepticism or mild cynicism can actually steer progress away from troubled waters. Great optimism can and has lead to terrible things and the same is true for cynicism, but I believe that there is an optimum balance between the two political attitudes that if held widely enough among the population can ensure a smooth and steady transition through the singularity. I think you were getting at this when you mentioned non-foolish optimism supported by an intelligent examination of the evidence and the logically inferred consequences, and this is probably the most practical and ideal attitude to hold towards the future.

    Cynicism, as a degree of skepticism, has served as a kind of protection or resilience for societies against harmful ideas that have the potential to permeate through it. It's kind of like the Collective's immune system. An overactive immune system like radical skepticism is destructive to the organism when it is infected with inefficient patterns of behavior and unfortunately also keeps out those potentially beneficial ideas along with the new bad ones, so gradually it refines itself towards more surgical methods of choosing which ideas to foster and which to guard against. Eventually an intelligent optimism will emerge from such a system if there is no coercion, but sadly there is. Nations, Mass media in the hands of private individuals, or any inequity of power among the population is an impediment towards the dissolution of blind cynicism. As long as the old powerful ideas have something to lose from the change, there will be resistance, but those that think will eventually learn to doubt the predominant cynical views of the community (assuming the intellectuals aren’t exiled). It’s when some small group has complete control over a population’s access to information that cynicism can thrive indefinitely.

    So yeah, I totally agree that it’s political act.
    But it’s also more than that. It’s the struggle between ideas for dominance in every avenue of knowledge among intelligent populations. Cynicism is just a skepticism of the future, of an individual's agency in it, of the value of life, or something similar(?). People naturally seem to become skeptical of the predominant views and even the methods and logics behind them, so they are forced to create a new one or resign themselves to living a meaningless life. That’s why science is so awesome and that’s why math is even more so because nothing else can compete with those two by way of logic, which has proven to be the most effective tool an organism can use in developing successful survival strategies. They are problem solving strategies emerged from trial and error life processes. It’s a self-improving learning system. Optimism is a direction towards an idea of life.

    Wow, that ramble got out of hand.
         Mon, Dec 8, 2008  Permanent link
    This is my view on the whole matter: Optimism is nothing much without skepticism because then it's probably just a product of dogmatic idealism, of the kind that is used to keep people down and of the kind that doesn't hold up to reason. Representing skepticism as an integral component of cynicism is erroneous because then it just becomes one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. I think that cynicism/optimism and skepticism should be looked at as apart, because they occupy two different domains of our minds: The domain of mood for cynicism/optimism and the mode of lingual thought for skepticism. Of course, the question is, which one do you really have control over? Who are you?

    As for understanding who you are, someone here on spacecollective posted this stuff which comes from the same guy in the video above. I don't remember who posted it here, but I really like it :)

    Self-Evolving     Mon, Dec 8, 2008  Permanent link
    I look at it something like this:

    Crazy wisdom is, of course, the opposite of conventional wisdom. It is wisdom that deliberately swims against the current in order to avoid being swept along in the numbing wake of bourgeois compromise, wisdom that flouts taboos in order to undermine their power; wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to revert one's gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything. (Tom Robbins, author)
    yugenro     Mon, Jan 19, 2009  Permanent link
    I agree that optimism is definitely political, and at the time this article was written, in October 2008, the Presidential election was in full steam, and the world had endured eight years of the fear-mongering Bush administration. Of course, with the election of Obama, hope and positivity have been rekindled worldwide. It is now our duty to not give in to complacency, but to continue to build on the huge swing-to-the-positive that is sweeping our world.