I am a regular reader of a weekly magazine that is, rather creatively, called "The Week" where amongst the really good stuff there is a fun "Wit and Wisdom" column. In the last edition there was a quote I had not seen for a long while that goes "What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly". It stopped me in my tracks because I was only the other day bemoaning the fact to someone that I have gone from being a person that is usually on the side of optimism, over to the "dark side"!! I have tended, rather simplistically, to say you have two choices in life - you can be happy or you can be sad, and I know what I would rather be. And you also have to remember that having wealth and material possessions does not necessarily make you either happy - or a better person.
I have to confess, looking at recent events all around the world there do not seem to be a whole lot of things that are a cause for optimism. The negative energy that is evident almost everywhere - and trending - is a concern. I have commented previously on the growing trend for nationalism, and I know I am old fashioned, but I also look with some dismay at a world where a sense of entitlement is evident in some countries. Lots of people with their hands out but not prepared to work, believing that people who have managed to accumulate savings over the years should somehow be subsidising others. Compare it to those countries where they actually have nothing and are deserving of some humane support - but where their leaders do not seem to suffer from malnutrition or the lack of a decent place to stay. Add to that the people who are of the opinion that their view is the only view and that no-one else is entitled to be heard. And that particular phenomenon is one that infiltrates everything from politics, to religion, to everyday life. Excepting of course my wife who is always right - well, most of the time.
Then there is the growing despair over the competence and general ability of Governments to deal with important issues of the day. Of course they are usually elected to look no further than the end of their particular garden fence, or they won't get re-elected. They are a little like the financial analysts community who have turned major companies into quivering wrecks in their desire to produce good quarterly results to avoid criticism by the analysts who only see the short term and very rarely the long term vision so badly needed by those companies.
Hence a growing sense of gloom in my recent blogs over insular thinking, short-term goals, and persuasive but unhelpful rhetoric, some of which has a somewhat aggressive tone. All leading to a pessimistic streak that is unusual.
But you know, what's the point in sitting around and moping? Either accept the negative and be miserable - but please don't come and talk to me about it and make me more miserable. Instead, adopt the philosophy of the wonderful comic character Wilkins Micawber who appears in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and is the eternal optimist. Often beaten down and suffering all sorts of problems he says in one piece ... “Welcome poverty! Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!” Perfect.
We take a view today that we are living in the worst of times. It's a comment I have used in various speeches throughout the years because you only have to think back to the lives of most of our parents (if you're my age), grandparents and great grandparents. Think what they lived through. If it wasn't strikes, riots and civil commotion - which we still get today in some places I grant you - it was all out war, or it was an influenza virus. The 1918 flu epidemic killed an estimated 50 million people in a matter of months - three times more than had been killed in the First World War.
I am the first to admit that I have been lucky to have been born when I was, in the country I was, to a hugely supportive parent. But what happened since has not come on its own; a lot of hard work and effort, supported by others who I hope I have supported in turn. A world that has seen some good time. And it continues to grow and evolve. Things I did that disturbed my elders is replicated today by the next generation, it will continue and it was ever thus. But we have been through good times. There are more people out of poverty today than there were a decade ago. That said, yes, I do recognise and do not like the fact that the wealth gap is widening: there is no need for that sort of greed.
But we should be optimistic about progress. We need to stop gazing at our navels and bemoaning our fate or it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look instead at the good that is in people - in ordinary people - for example after the appalling fire at Grenfell Towers in London recently. Look at the actions of ordinary people after the terrorist attacks in Britain - religion didn't matter; ethnicity didn't matter, rich or poor didn't matter and it demonstrated to me at least that there is more good in the world than bad.
I think, like Mr. Micawber, that we have cause to believe that optimism will win in the end - just as long as we don't let the lunatics take over the asylum.