Tag: pessimism

Who Could Have Guessed?

There are few advantages to being Gen X.

We’re a much smaller generation and therefore less culturally powerful than the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We’re too old to be hip and cool, but too young to collect Social Security (which will be long gone by the time we’re senior citizens). Also, we were born too late to see Led Zeppelin in concert, but born too early to have our own cell phones as teenagers.

Also, our rock icons keep dying on us.

But there is one advantage we have, and it is this: We are cynical as fuck.

I’m not making this up. Studies have verified that Gen X is the most skeptical group of Americans in history.

Now, you might not think being cynical is an advantage. For the most part, it’s not. But when it comes to existing in the world in which we live, it is a damn lifesaver.

Take, for example, the recent poll numbers for our illustrious president.

In November, when Trump won — due to that archaic relic known as the Electoral College — about 60% of Americans “said they were mostly optimistic about his presidency.” But that number is down to 43% today, and furthermore, “core groups that carried Trump to victory are not immune to the deteriorating optimism around the president.”

I’m not a political scientist, but I’m pretty sure the phrase “deteriorating optimism” is not one that presidents like to hear.

Keep in mind that all these numbers came before the president threatened to start a nuclear war.

In any case, “optimism has slipped more than 20 points — from 74% in November to 51% now — among whites without a college degree.” Keep in mind that this demographic is the most hardcore of Trump’s hardcore support.

Apparently, for some inexplicable reason, back in November, many Americans somehow thought that electing a narcissist with no governmental or military experience, who had a history of racist statements, misogynistic behavior, and unethical actions, and who had the temperament of a spoiled toddler was somehow cause for optimism.

Why any rational adult would think this is completely beyond me.

Even people who knew firsthand about Trump’s insanity seemed to think a 70-year-old bully would somehow become more humble by winning the election. Witness the New York Times columnist who was personally insulted by Trump, but only recently addressed his boorish behavior by stating, “I have to admit that it did not occur to me he’d keep doing that kind of stuff as president of the United States.”

How did this not occur to you? How could this be a damn surprise?

Maybe it’s just not Gen X cynicism, however. Maybe it’s also because I’m Latino, and as my fellow Hispanics — and no doubt most African Americans and Muslims and gays as well — can attest, we never thought the guy would be anything other than a disaster. We never thought he would mellow out, or suddenly become presidential, or really be anything other than what he appeared to be, which is a corrupt, conniving liar who cares about nothing but himself.

It seems that many other Americans are now snapping out of their collective naivety to admit reality. Although I remain baffled why it’s taken people so long to acknowledge the perfectly obvious.

However, if you still think I’m being too harsh, just remember this fact: In spite of everything that has gone wrong with the Trump presidency, 84% of Republicans still support him.

So would you like to ask again why I’m cynical?

 


Doomed, Doomed, Doomed

So I was listening to a podcast on nihilism (no, it cannot get any geekier and more depressing, at least not simultaneously).

In any case, a number of scholars talked about the history of pessimism and the belief that life is meaningless and Nietzsche’s horse and all that fun stuff. The scholars agreed that periods of nihilism are cyclical, just like all components of history, and that the doom and gloom that pervade our culture is not unusual… however…

A few of them believed that our era is subtly different — a bit more intense than your typical Armageddon of the past. This is because our society’s constant barrage of horrific news, and the proliferation of social media, have combined to create a hyper-awareness of just how shitty the entire planet is and the knowledge of every little thing that is going wrong anywhere at any time.

The experts are correct. Fifty years ago, you might have felt despair over the Vietnam War, but there wasn’t a constant stream of Facebook videos explaining just how hopeless it was, and maybe you still had faith that things were ok in Paris or Helsinki or Rio de Janiero or wherever. Today, we hear constantly that everyplace is fucked up, and you’re a bad person if you ignore it.

Isis wants to chop off all our heads, and undocumented immigrants are raping at will, and gay men are stalking kids in bathrooms — hey, irrational fear multiples and feeds upon itself.

However, I think there is even more to it.

You might expect me to mention that the recent election of the worst-qualified president in history, who is also an egotistical sociopathic, might have increased the perception that the end is nigh, or at least nigh-er. You would be correct.

However, there is yet more to it than that.

You see, a hundred years ago, you may have been overwhelmed at the carnage of World War I, but you didn’t seriously think all of civilization would be destroyed.

And then the nuclear era changed all that, and you had to accept that everyone and everything could go up in flames one day just because the Russians got all pushy. But even then, total annihilation required action (i.e., the launching of thermonuclear warheads). Therefore, as long as everybody kept his cool, it was going to be fine.

Well, we have now morphed into a new era — a period of intense, unique nihilism — where all the old fears about the end of the world persist. However, now it is inaction — in the form of denying climate change — that is dooming us.

In other words, for the first time in our history, we actually have to work to prevent our extinction. In the past, we just had to keep our collective heads down and avoid doing anything too spectacularly stupid. But now, we have to come up with answers.

And it is this knowledge — that we have to fight for our survival — that has caused so many people to embrace nihilism. If we can’t even keep our leaders from tweeting idiotic, made-up bullshit about climate change, what hope does the Earth have?

 

Of course, we Latinos are especially prone to Catholic fatalism, which has the whiplash effect of making us weirdly optimistic about the future. But that is a whole other story.

In any case, all this is rather bleak, so I’m going to end this article with an uplifting story.

Recently, a “Christian computer programmer” (emphasis on the “Christian”) crunched the biblical numbers and come to the conclusion that the apocalypse will occur on New Year’s Eve.

 

So humanity will be wiped out, and none of us will live to see 2017.

You may ask, “What’s so cheery about that?”

Well, duh, it means that Trump will never be inaugurated.

Happy days are here again.

 


A Permanent Upside-Down Frown

Most of the people in my family are fairly cheerful people. My mom, in particular, is the most upbeat and optimistic person I’ve ever met.

It’s a little odd, in that nobody in my family is a millionaire, and we’ve all had our fair share of traumas. And yet, here we are, apparently happier than your average stressed-out American.

stresed worker

And a recent study found that Latin America is arguably the happiest place on Earth. Yes, even with all the region’s socioeconomic problems, residents of Latin America don’t sweat the small stuff.

Why is this?

Well, I’ve written before about the Latino tendency to be positive, even in the face of grim news and dreary statistics. But I recently came across a scientific theory for this relentless smiling.

Now, it’s old news that research “suggests an association between mental wellbeing and a mutation of the gene that influences the reuptake of serotonin, which is believed to be linked to human mood.”

Basically, much of our happiness, or lack thereof, may be traced to our genetic makeup.

Scientists have found that the Scandinavian population is most likely to have this gene. This may be one reason why Denmark, Finland, and other counties in that region perennially rank as the happiest nations on Earth.

Of course, a progressive government that ensures a high standard of living for their citizens may have something to do with that perpetual singsong attitude. But let’s not dwell on that because it’s, you know, socialism.

In any case, additional research has found that like the Scandinavians, Latin Americans are “more likely to contain a specific allele involved in sensory pleasure and pain reduction.”

As such, Latin Americas and Scandinavians are more likely to be chipper than, say, the Chinese or the Iraqis (of course, there are very real non-genetic reasons for their respective unhappiness too).

Is it possible, then, that as more Hispanics intermarry and intermingle and inter-you-know-what, they will spread their happiness genes among more and more Americans?

Hey, there’s only one way to find out.

 


Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.

thumbsup

Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.

 


A Matter of Confidence

Well, Obamacare has rolled out, and the results thus far aren’t exactly spectacular. This fiasco has illustrated the vast gap between liberals and conservatives.

Now, I’m not talking about ideology, or even about Obamacare specifically. I’m referring to the differing mindsets of the opposite ends of our political spectrum.

Simply put, conservatives are perennially more confident and exhibit greater faith in their causes. Liberals, in contrast, seem perpetually on the verge of giving up.

white-flag

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Fortunate Son

You’ve heard of the luck of the Irish. So what is the luck of the Hispanic?

Personally, I think the Latino propensity for serendipity is symbolized by Hugo Reyes, also known as Hurley, from the show Lost.

Despite being a fun-loving, friendly Latino, Hurley kept seeing everybody around him get killed in some random or grisly manner. He constantly bemoaned the fact that he was cursed.

Certainly, many Americans relate to Hurley. For the last decade or so, we’ve all felt jinxed. It’s been a nonstop joyride of economic turmoil, endless war, terrorist threats, and political chaos.

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