And I dreamt of Yes!: Pessimism of the will and Pessimism of the strong.
“Is pessimism necessarily a sign of decline, decay, malformation, of tired and debilitated instincts [. . .]? Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual preference for the hard, gruesome, malevolent and problematic aspects of existence which comes from a feeling of well-being, from overflowing health, from an abundance of existence? Is there perhaps such a thing as suffering from overabundance itself? Is there a tempting bravery in the sharpest eye which demands the terrifying as its foe, as a worthy foe against which it can test its strength and from which it intends to learn the meaning of fear?”. - Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Trans. Ronald Speirs. Ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Lacking strength, Beauty hates the Understanding for asking of her what it cannot do. But the life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being. — G. W. F. Hegel, “Preface” to Phenomenology of Spirit
“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” ― Antonio Gramsci, Gramsci’s Prison Letters
“Other dogs bite only their enemies, whereas I bite also my friends in order to save them” – Attributed to Diogenes of Sinope by Stobaeus
I am an admitted pessimist, but my gloomy mood is actually rooted in something different from the caustic cynicism that has dominated the past two decades of popular entertainment. This is frustrating because this gloom and ironic gloom is a pessimism that trains be to identity as positively what they should probably reject in themselves. The writers at the rather enigmatic blogger at Spass ohne Grenzen cut to what I like to call “pessimism” of the will, which masks itself as an ideology of the gleeful ,ironic every-man:
I’m so intensely tired of cynicism, and particularly with the ways new entertainment encourages emotional atrophy by proliferating the archetype of the apathetic pseudo-anti-hero to normalize feelings of isolation so people can go, “hey I feel like shit too!” Here’s lookin at you Louis C.K. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the guy, but maybe if we didn’t have a communal comfort-fest culture making light of isolation, people would feel more motivated to get out of it. It’s as if almost every sitcom in both the United States and the UK are working to relieve people of a guilt that should not be relieved, by giving them something to identify with when they should not be allowed to identify; “Lol that guy has trouble with empathy! It must not be a big deal because I’m laughing about it!” I started watching a Houellebecq film adaptation today and had to turn it off because it’s such a dead end. Maybe the ending would have redeemed it, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. (Don’t get me wrong, I still love the guy.) I try to avoid any itch of negativity like the plague now, and I’d rather be vain than depressed. By this I mean that I’d rather this paragraph contain weak reasoning to get the point across; yes, shows about emotional detachment are “working through” something in our society. I’m indifferent to this argument regardless of its validity because it’s all been going on for so long. It’s the equivalent of Jezebel articles which amount to little more than an effort to make lonely people feel happy and comfortable with themselves just as they are. Go ahead and have that extra cookie, and turn on some Louis while you’re at it.
Pessimism of the intellect is how an intelligent person colors their glasses: they see the world as it is. As studies that depressives are more likely to think critically and be self-honest, optimists live longer. False hopes keeps many people alive, literally. Yet the turn of the gleeful pessimism who makes these faults not seem like faults seems like the most perverse dialectical move: Indeed, it brings the hope to the strange place. Your negative traits aren’t negative and you are fool for seeing them as such is the the implicit ideological impulse in the gap. This move is the inverted Diogenes: the man who bites himself so his friends can ignore their wounds.
So I want to dream Yes to the Nietzsche’s question and ignore this the excuse function that we see in the 1990s irony and the aughts lovable failures. We need to look at things as they with respect that what we should reject. To put Nietzsche into the dialectical mode of Hegel: Amor Fati most be opposed by self-overcoming and sublated into something not yet seen.
But the yes must be larger than this: we can not help but battle the dehumanizing pessimist in our heads but we must not step their. We cannot want to see the world in the a certain way, but must see the world as it is to change it. We should not be merely identifying with social faults and shrugging our shoulders and accepting our fate. Yet that is the tenor of our media these days.
Thought is not enough to overcome anything where it be a cracked means of production or over-eating or the idea of the state. One sees this pessimism of the will from even the likes of Eric Hobshawm. An ethic settling. Of lesser evil. Of gradual reform. Of lessened expectations.
To say the Yes to a better a world, one must see things as they are. One must learn to say no.