Kevin Kelly: Civilization requires optimism

I saw this piece arguing for optimism written by Kevin Kelly and had to share it here. I’ll include a snippet below.

The whole piece is banging around in my head, because I lean toward cynicism, which is the child of Pessimism and GoFuckYourselfery.

I was recently in NC where I overheard a conservative say something about how their rights were being taken away, and I held my tongue while rolling my eyes, because 1) I was taught that same sentiment at a young age and 2) it’s bullshit. The media is chockfull of dastardly stories of rights removals. And that may be. But unless you’re a young 10 year old raped by a family member, impregnated and need to take care of the unwanted fetus, or one of a zillion foster kids desperate for parents to adopt them, or a child in an elementary school targeted by a man with an AR-15 or a black church goer, or attend a Jewish synagogue or the target of any number of white nationalist death wishes, or a US veteran in need of healthcare, there’s not much you need to worry about.

This same person sent me this article on July 4th explaining why the song “God Bless America” is so important, especially when, and I quote, “Every American seems to know the words to “God Bless America.” It really strikes the hearts of patriotic Americans. Despite liberal attempts to remove the word “God” from everything, the song remains a favorite. And Kate Smith’s version is one of the most iconic and beautiful.”

That same morning before I received said article, I was listening to local NC NPR affiliate run by liberal media propagandists that plays nothing but classical music. That very morning, a version of God Bless America came on and I, a bleeding heart liberal, sang along.

So no, dear readers, we liberals are NOT trying to take “God” out of everything.

The article then goes on to say that it was popularized when it was sung before a hockey game in which the American team beat the Canadian team. Thanks to this song – and not the talent of the players – the Americans, patriotic and emboldened by God in song lyrics, won the Stanley Cup. I’m sure liberal Canada never won another game ever again.

Thanks song lyrics!

Here’s a snippet from the Kevin Kelly piece:

“Civilization depends on an implicit degree of general optimism. It is a collaborative exercise. Civilization amplifies and accumulates cooperation between strangers. If you expect that you can trust a stranger, that is optimism. If you expect to be cheated or hurt, that is pessimism. Societies that bring the most good to the most people, require that people be trusted more than they are distrusted; that they expect more good than harm; they require that people in general have more hope than fear. Societies that have more pessimism than optimism tend not to prosper. The default stance in any thriving civilization is optimistic: it operates on the assumption that in general, most people, most of the time, will cooperate. They can be trusted to be honest and this cooperation will produce positive results that add up to more than the sum. Civilization requires trust; trust requires optimism; civilization requires optimism.

In the version of America that I love, everyone is free to worship God or not. Or they’re free to worship the version of God of their choice. To my best reading of the Christian Bible, God will be worshiped whether humans do it or not. He’s everywhere all at once. And if anyone’s turning backs on another, it’s God. Because he was in the room when children were murdered in Parkland, Uvalde and anywhere else in the world, and he did nothing to stop it. He’s doing nothing to stop abortion if he hates it so much. If we’re making arguments for anything, it’s how those who spread information like the “God Bless America” article are not making good arguments for an all-powerful being who loves everyone, but a sore helpless being with emotional issues.

Mr. Kelly, I really do want to be optimistic. And I thank you for reminding me that it’s a better way to live, because optimism breeds humility and goodness. I hung out with one of my besties last night, and she has the words, “I wish you happiness” tattooed on her wrist and “joy” tattooed on one of her hands.

She practices Buddhism and leads weekly meditations on Mondays via zoom. I also hung with another friend whom I had pegged for a Christian, because she acts like what I expect Christians to act like. It’s weird and great when you judge a book and then find out you’re wrong partway through it.

So I admit, dear reader, I struggle with optimism. But I want to give it my best. Perhaps I should tattoo it on my hand.

I wish you joy and I wish you happiness.

Let’s try being optimistic together. God knows I need it.


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