As I read a lot of political news and listen to political news, I am informed in two stages.
At stage one, I get the facts of the news: what happened, who is involved, et cetera.
At stage two, I get opinions of what those facts mean. The opinions are offered by a variety of newsfolk. Some are journalists, some experts, some pols, some jerkwads. (I didn’t make up that term; somebody on Twitter did, probably an ex-Republican but I’m not naming names or picking sides.)
A lot of these opinions offer a pretty dark look at the future. And a lot of people I know have absorbed the same view. Dark. The end of everything.
I believe the cast of these opinions has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with character and, possibly, biochemistry.
Many years ago, the New York Times published one of those fascinating studies conducted by one of those anthropological or sociological groups who spend years finding out what’s what with us ordinary citizens.
That study was of optimism and pessimism. As a genetically endowed optimist, i.e., I can’t help it, I read it with curiosity.
What the study reported was, first, the majority of people are pessimists. That was disappointing, but not a surprise.
The next discovery, however, did cause me to react. After the research study had separated the group into optimists and pessimists, it went on to test each sensibility for accuracy in perception.
Pessimists turned out to be right more often than optimists.
I burst out laughing. “What do I care whether they’re right or not?” I said to myself. “They’re miserable, I’m happy.”
Moreover, I don’t believe pessimists are usually right. If you see events through a dark scrim, it doesn’t make your vision correct. It just makes it dark, all the time. If a pessimist predicts bad things will happen, he’ll see whatever happens as bad, and claim his prediction has been justified.
So, like the rest of us, individual editors, journalists, experts, pols and columnists are either predominantly pessimistic or optimistic – and if the research study results can be extrapolated, it’d mean most professional opinionaters are pessimists.
In dark days, optimists like me wait for the next sunny day, which we know will come.
Pessimists, on the other hand, are sure they’re living through the opening passages of the apocalypse.