It’s the old comparison – are you a glass-half-full sort of person or a glass-half-empty sort of person? Or maybe even a glass-half-empty-and-leaking sort of person?
Years ago, I thought I was a pessimist; “assume the worst, be pleasantly surprised”, seemed to be my mantra. It still is, in some aspects of my life – project planning for instance, is an area where you really do have to work up as many contingency plans as possible to reduce the chance of hitting a nasty surprise. Same for general quoting around services … think of the sorts of things that are likely to go wrong, or can commonly go wrong for the sort of work you’re quoting on, and build the pricing model up accordingly.
Hell, my entire core IT skillset is premised on planning for the worst. I’m a backup and recovery consultant/architect, which means I spend most of my time working on systems that are only needed if things go wrong.
Over time, I thought maybe I was just simply a realist – not caring whether the glass was half full or half empty, OK with the state of its content. Willing to expect the worst, or hope for the best, depending on what the situation warranted.
Lately though I’ve had enough people pop out of the woodwork to call me an optimist that it leaves me highly disturbed. I shouldn’t be an optimist.
What have I been called an optimist about?
- Being surprised that people fail to grasp the common sense notion that if they want to get onto the train I’m alighting from, or into the elevator I’m wanting to step out of, they need to let me out first – i.e., the simple logic that if you’re in a big space wanting to get into a smaller space through a small gap then logically you let the people in the smaller space egress first;
- Being surprised people are unable to appreciate commercial realities – the notion that any business, if it’s going to survive, needs to make at least some form of profit;
- Thinking that the pure logic of “anyone who earns more than me should pay at least the same percentage tax as me” should be irrefutable ethics.
The simple truth is – if I’m an optimist, then either the bar is set pretty low, or my personal code of conduct is pretty damn high. Yet, I don’t personally think my personal code of conduct is extraordinary. Am I wrong? Am I more moral than the average person? Or more logical? The way in which friendships form – for me at least – means that the vast majority of people I know and count as friends share similar traits. For the most part they have a broad streak of social justice and liberal (that’s liberal, not conservative/Liberal) values to them, and they have a personal code of honour that aligns in some way to mine. Some times they’ll be the better angel of conscience, other times it may be me, but all up we tend to compliment and equalise each other nicely.
Yet, if I were to look around in the broader community based particularly on mainstream media, I don’t get that sense at all. Scratch the surface of Australia portrayed by mainstream media and you’ve got a nasty, vicious, narcissistic society so filled with self entitlement that the only rule of order is “no-one should have more than me”.
If I’m an optimist, everyone should be greatly alarmed.