Regarding Pessimism

Copyright ©,, 1999-2003.

pessimism - noun
1. A tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view.
2. The doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil
3. The doctrine or belief that the evil in the world outweighs the good.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Look, we don't want to piss on your campfire, but there is an awful lot of this so-called "bad" in the world.  That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it's always going to be.  Even if we can make great improvements to our society, the environment, and our situation in general, there will still be just as much "bad" as there ever was.

How can this be, you wonder?

It's quite simple.  The definition of "bad" is relative to the situation in which one finds himself.  "Bad" gets redefined and thereby maintains a more-or-less constant level of badness.  If we find ourselves in a better situation, then our expectations will be higher, and things that were previously accepted as normal, will now seem lacking; in need of improvement, and consequently "bad".

No matter how much you make, you're always living from hand to mouth - just at different levels.

An excellent article written by Emile Durkheim and titled "The Normal and the Pathological" has this to say:

... One easily overlooks the consideration that these strong states of the common consciousness cannot be thus reinforced without reinforcing at the same time the more feeble states, whose violation previously gave birth to mere infraction of convention - since the weaker ones are only the prolongation, the attenuated form, of the stronger.  Thus robbery and simple bad taste injure the same single altruistic sentiment, the respect for that which is another's.  However, this same sentiment is less grievously offended by bad taste than by robbery; and since, in addition, the average consciousness has not sufficient intensity to react keenly to bad taste, it is treated with greater tolerance.  That is why the person guilty of bad taste is merely blamed, whereas the thief is punished.  But if this sentiment grows stronger, to the point of silencing in all consciousnesses the inclination which disposes man to steal, he will become more sensitive to the offenses which, until then, touched him but lightly.  He will react against them, then, with more energy; they will be the object of greater opprobrium [disgrace], which will transform certain of them from the simple moral faults that they were and give them the quality of crimes.  For example, improper contracts, or contracts improperly executed, which only incur public blame or civil damages, will become offenses in law.

Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals.  Crimes, properly so called, will be there unknown; but faults which appear venial [minor] to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousnesses.  If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such.  For the same reason, the perfect and upright man judges his smallest failings with a severity that the majority reserve for acts more truly in the nature of an offense.  Formerly, acts of violence against persons were more frequent than they are today, because respect for individual dignity was less strong.  As this has increased, these crimes have become more rare; and also many acts violating this sentiment have been introduced into the penal law which were not included there in more primitive times (calumny [slander], insults, slander, fraud, etc.)....

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Copyright ©,, 1999-2003.
Last Updated: 19 December 2003.