November 05, 2010
The proper measure
Random animal picture of Arpad chowing down on some old bones he found in the woods. I wouldn't look too closely at this picture if I was you.
"Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" is one of my favorite sayings. It's attributed to the French writer Romaine Rolland and was also a favorite of Antonio Gramsci. I think this combination of apparently opposing attitudes works pretty well in dealing with social problems.
Pessimism of the intellect, as I interpret it anyhow, involves a hard-headed, totally realistic appraisal of the world and the current situation, without any kind of sugar coating. It's a good remedy against naive optimism, which is one crime for which there is no evidence whatsoever to convict me. Optimism of the will means the determination to do something about it, and the belief that one has a chance at some degree of success.
A few years back, I worked on a project that involved interviewing people about hope. In doing background research on the psychological literature, I came across this a book by Ezra Stotland titled The Psychology of Hope. In it, he had a great definition that works for me. Hope, he said, was "an expectation greater than zero of achieving a goal."
Pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will is a pretty good approach to lots of different situations. It may be particularly appropriate to the current social climate.
A MAJOR FIGHT IS BREWING over the federal budget. Deficit hawks in Congress could imperil economic recovery by slashing human needs spending. Here are some facts about the federal deficit.
NOT BIG ENOUGH. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that failure to pass a big enough stimulus to generate jobs was a fatal mistake that contributed to the results of the recent election.
A BIT MORE AUDACITY might have helped a while back, Krugman argues. It might even help now.
WELFARE TO WHAT. Here's a good review of several recent books on what happened in the wake of welfare reform.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED