I'm no optimist. If everything is going well, I fret over what could go wrong (I'm working on that). If everything is going badly, well, that makes sense. Yet with a global view in mind, I can assuredly attest that all is pretty much good.
Politicians (of both ends) have been predicting Ragnarok for a while now—needlessly—as Gregg Easterbrook reported in May ("When Did Optimism Become Uncool").
But the core reason for the disconnect between the nation’s pretty-good condition and the gloomy conventional wisdom is that optimism itself has stopped being respectable. Pessimism is now the mainstream, with optimists viewed as Pollyannas. If you don’t think everything is awful, you don’t understand the situation!
The frum world is awash with "crises," right? (Eye roll.)
Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. . .
What's all the kvetching about? Do something, or shut up. Arthur C. Brooks "We Need Optimists") writes fondly of Reagan:
Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign theme is an obvious example, but his optimism went much deeper, to his faith in Americans’ desire to fight for people. “Together, let us make this a new beginning. Let us make a commitment to care for the needy,” said Reagan at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit as he accepted the nomination of his party. “We have to move ahead, but we’re not going to leave anyone behind.”
Reagan was not a cheerful milquetoast. He was perfectly capable of a vigorous fight — just ask the Soviets. But he studiously avoided being grim about it. He was Wordsworth’s happy warrior, “Whose high endeavours are an inward light / That makes the path before him always bright.”
Reagan’s optimism should not be understood ideologically; it was simply about people and our potential. He possessed an unflinching belief that all people — the poor, children, the elderly — were human assets, waiting to be developed so they could earn their success.
In contrast, pessimists see people as liabilities to manage, as burdens or threats that we must minimize.
"Those people." Ah, "those people." Whoever "they" may be. Easterbrook continues:
Recently Warren Buffett said that because of the “negative drumbeat” of politics, “many Americans now believe their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” This was not Nebraska folk wisdom; rather, it’s sophisticated analysis.
Nicholas Kristof informed me that in terms of world poverty, it's dropping every day. I think people who worry about their children not dying from perfectly preventable diseases get to complain first, don't you?