There are grounds for a cautious and gentle optimism for the planet in general and for humans in particular. I am inundated, like everyone else, with bad news, including endless wars for dominance and control, as if history had not proved the impermanence of both, disregard for children and animals on every level, absolutely plausible conspiracy theories, accounts of seemingly unshakeable intergenerational trauma and environmental disrespect on scales that defy understanding. The news is coming at us through radio, Facebook, newspapers, online TV, regular TV (if you still do that kinda thing) but through the new medias we can comment and share. That is a huge improvement over the older ways of getting news and information for those of us who want to react and express ourselves, and not just take it in passively. The new media lets me mix consuming news with broadcasting news. I too can create news and further broadcast news from other sources, news that interests me and my social circle online. News is whatever I decide news is. The news I share can be microscopic, personal, such as what my cat did today, or global and impersonal: what brutal genocide was perpetrated elsewhere today.
We share information about everything: history, politics, religion, education, psychology, in the form of cartoons, quotations, assertions, demands. We share visuals to celebrate and critique life, nature, nurture, and in the act, we choose the mix of news we consume. We turn off channels and people that no longer serve us well, no longer relevant and tune in to a mix of input that keeps us sane.
It is no longer just that an eight story clothing factory in Bangladesh fell apart killing hundreds; there is immediate discussion of the price of our clothing and how that is related to the underpaid and overworked workers, greed, and lack of concern for safety. I hear NBA players coming out, not because they have retired safely, but because they are tired of waiting for the “right” moment, and tired of being afraid of coming out at the “wrong” moment. Modest and unassuming people are saying they just want to know the truth behind 9/11 or the Boston Marathon devastation, asking if there really is a backstory, without being paranoid and obsessed, but with a healthy dose of scepticism. New mothers want to know about how to make their babies genuinely happy, by looking into the root causes of anxiety and trauma and returning to more natural mothering. I hardly know anyone who would not lend a hand if approached personally to help out with some situation close to them. Mostly, I see people willing to speak up and say “I think this” or “I think that”, unafraid that they won’t be accepted.
This gives me hope, and a gentle optimism. I am no stranger to cynical diatribes, biting sarcasm and habitual pessimism. They are often well thought out, profoundly perceptive, and accurate depictions of the world as it is, and there is a certain charm to eloquently lashing out in rage at injustice and corruption, at greed and ruthlessness. It’s heady and exhilarating It can even be addictive to analyse and tear apart institutions and powerful individuals. At the end of it, what is left over? What was the return in that investment of energy? Clever, righteous pessimism and cynicism take energy, creativity, and passion. If they do not move us to action or reflection, and instead leave us in a state of debilitating fear or depressing resignation, then why invest in such anger?
For me, a cautious optimism requires awareness of all the bad news and the ability to consume and disseminate in quantities that create a balance, and a sense of forward movement. What that optimism is not, is being in denial and choosing to ignore and dismiss the havoc around us. It is not passive resignation. What it is, is consuming information that strengthens and edifies us, maybe makes us laugh, and makes us do something in healthy reaction. Expressing it back into the world makes us relevant and a player on on the scene, with some power: not disproportionate power, but just the right amount of power.