Posted tagged ‘pessimism’

Addicted to negativity?

April 26, 2009

Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 5.

Another Part of the Forest.

Enter AMIENS, JAQUES, and Others
Ami.   [sings…]
Jaq.  More, more, I prithee, more.
Ami.  It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.
Jaq.  I thank it. More! I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs. More! I prithee, more.

Right now it seems to me that this entire country is sucking melancholy out of absolutely everything. The news is bad in Ireland of course, but as a nation we seem determined to make it worse still. The entire national discourse is stuck in a groove, endlessly repeating pessimism, fatalism, blame, indignation, cynicism, negativity. We put on the radio or open our newspapers determined to find more of all this.

Yesterday I was talking to some visitors from the United States. They are frequent visitors to Ireland, but this was their first visit in 15 months or so. They simply could not believe the amount of negativity and pessimism they were encountering everywhere. Apart from wondering how on earth we are still managing to get out of bed in the morning, they were observing that, with such an attitude problem, we would probably make our way out of the recession two years after everyone else, by which point also we will have ably persuaded all potential investors that they should look elsewhere.

Yes, we have had a bad fall, and yes, there were reckless and crazy decisions along the way and some reprehensible people. But hey, enough already! We need to snap out of it and start looking to the future, and that’s only of benefit if we do so with a can-do spirit of optimism. We need to stop looking around for people to blame; it happened, and in some measure we were all fellow-conspirators. After all, didn’t we willingly buy the over-priced goods and services and calmly accept the inflated real estate values?

There are ways out of this mess, but all the negativity is making us focus on the past rather than plan for the future. It’s time to move on.

Humility and pessimism

March 25, 2009

It’s been a day for bad attitudes. Two reports in the media this morning: one told us that German politicians feel that Ireland needs to show ‘humility’, and the other confirmed that Ireland was right now the most pessimistic nation – well, almost anywhere.

Germany, apparently, wants to use the current crisis to raise its influence over other European countries. The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, wants any bail-out that Germany might fund to assist another EU country to be used to ‘consolidate’ the German position ‘for years to come’. And here’s what Axel Schäfer, a senior Social Democratic politician, had to say:

“As Catholics, perhaps it’s time [for the Irish] to remember the expression of Pope John XXIII: ‘Don’t take oneself so seriously’. Sometimes a situation like this is the time to show a little humility.”

Well, perhaps that would fit the current Irish mood quite well. The Global Economic Confidence Barometer has found that we feel just terrible about everything right now. 71 per cent of people feel that the current situation is the worst in their lifetime. Funnily enough, an even larger percentage of Americans (89 per cent) feel that way. But here’s a curiosity: despite that, Americans are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future, with a large majority believing things will get better over the next six months; while a majority of Irish people think it will get worse. Only the Lithuanians feel even more pessimistic.

Of course Ireland needs to be part of Europe and work constructively in the European context; but we shouldn’t be too shy in suggesting that ‘humility’ might also be a virtue for the Germans, whose economy has not been doing well at all and where the government parties are currently fighting each other like ferrets in a sack.

And with or without humility, we need to get off our backsides and stop all this moaning and we need to banish pessimism. We need to get active and turn things around, we need enterprise and innovation and a sense of can-do. It’s time for Ireland to re-discover an attitude; but just not a bad one.