The folly of optimism
Subject: How to Survive Really Tough Times: Don’t be an OptimistLA replies:
Stockdale’s lesson is profound. Conservative “optimists” who deny the gravity of a problem are not prepared to deal with it, so when the problem turns out to be worse than they imagined, they end up surrendering to the very problem they had minimized or dismissed. We see this syndrome manifesting itself over and over in relation to such issues as immigration, Islamization, and feminism. The sanguine ones fold. The “pessimists” (the incorrect term that the “optimists” use to marginalize people who see reality) remain firm.
I’ve seen someone (I cannot recall who) say that liberals are disappointed optimists. It fits with the article about how viewers of Avatar became deeply depressed afterward. It was a fresh reminder of what they hope for, and thus renewed their disappointment.Gintas continues:
I just remembered who said it, but it’ll sound like my soapbox again: James Burnham, in Suicide of the West, referred to Liberals as being the optimists. Their way of dealing with the decline of the West was to change setbacks and defeats to advances and victories. Thus they could maintain their optimism in the face of decline.Nik S. writes:
Regarding Prisoners of War, I could not help but noticing certain (coincidental) verbal parallels between the Stockholm Syndrome (wherein a prisoner begins having feelings for his enslavers) and the Stockdale Paradox, wherein “the problem turns out to be worse than they imagined, [and] they end up surrendering to the very problem they had minimized or dismissed.”LA replies:
Yes, except that the Stockdale Paradox actually refers to the “pessimists,” not the “optimists.” The Stockdale-type “pessimists” see things as very bad, while also having unwavering faith in a final good outcome, and this gives them the strength to hold on no matter how bad things get.January 19
Jeremy G. writes:
I guess that’s me, I’m a Stockdale-type pessimist. I know we’re at the beginning of a long and hard war and I’m ready to go through it; I’m preparing my children so that they can go through it.LA replies:
Unlike Irving Kristol, who in 1993 wrote in the WSJ about fighting in a culture war that might go on for centuries, yet within a couple of years he and his fellow neocons were already surrendering in the culture war and washing their hands of it.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 18, 2010 06:56 PM | Send