The Theory of Negativity

I have it on good authority that I was once a terribly happy child, always laughing and smiling. For many who have met me or known me since my childhood, this would likely come as a great surprise. It seems that I am, more often than I find amusing, considered to have a little dark cloud hanging about my head. I’m a negative person, they say. In fact, they said it or alluded to it twice this last week.
And, I want to know, what’s so wrong with that?

Let’s make a fine distinction here to begin this tirade I’m about to embark upon; I do not believe that my attitude towards anything can be best described as negative.

Negative is a label, like many other labels, intended to silence or discredit. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m being quite serious, as I generally am when speaking of labels, which, in case you didn’t notice, are things I don’t approve of. People seem to exalt optimism and disdain what they call “negativity.” You know, that whole “a smile is better than a frown, so turn your frown upside down” bullshit. Useless twaddle. No, really! What the hell good does a smile do when a frown is a more natural response to a situation?

Don’t give me that psycho-physiological crap. I studied that too. I know all about facial feedback and how smiling actually puts you in a better mood. That’s all fine and dandy. But what does smiling really do?

You see, I am a firm believer that there is optimism, negativity, and reality. I believe that I live in the land of reality. The other two territories are positions taken that have nothing to do with the one I’m in. Optimism is like religious faith; an optimist maintains a position for which there is no verifiable evidence, and which predicts a future eventuality for which there is no recent historical precedent. Voltaire said it best in Candide:

“‘What is optimism?’, said Cacambo. ‘Alas!’ said Candide, ‘it is the mania of maintaining that everything is well when we are wretched.'”

An optimist is the polar opposite of a country song. You see, an optimist would ponder the loss of trailer, wife, dog and pickup truck and respond with a heartfelt “Well, now I have more room for all the wonderful things that are coming my way!”

Useless twaddle.

I believe in looking at things from a realistic vantage. Life is about negotiating reality. Events occur, you experience them, and you respond, which in turn leads to further events occuring. You try your best to learn from history and not repeat mistakes. And you also try to use the education of past experience to better negotiate future events.

This is life.

So what good does it do to experience something only to plaster your face with an unjustified smile and say “Golly gee, the sky is actually falling, but I’m certain that everything will work out marvellously once this weather passes!”? Better yet, why is it so looked down upon to instead say “Fuck me, the sky is falling! I’d better get my ass under cover!”?

Professionally, to be deemed “negative” is anathema to advancement and success. When I wrote before about how calling someone “anti-semetic” can be used to ad hominem discredit someone and silence their opinion, I could have easily spoken about the use of the label “negative” in professional circles. The effect is the same. If you are deemed “negative” in professional circles, it follows that you are not “a solutions oriented individual” or a “team player.” These are all things that professional types seek to thwart or smite.

Calling it like it is is far more useful than trying to find the sunny side to everything. If something sucks, it generally sucks for a reason, and finding that reason, negative though it might be, is a step closer to solving the problem. Everyone can smile when there’s something to smile about. Smiling when there’s nothing to smile about will likely make you look like a lunatic, which is probably a telling point that explains my distrust for humanity and my disdain for the same.

If elements of a particular situation are apt to fail because they are flawed or not well thought out, discussing this and trying to find a solution is a hell of a lot more productive than saying “Well, surely with some good ol’ effort it will sing true and be a raving success!”

If you fail to plan, one of my bosses in bygone days once told me, you plan to fail. Optimism is not planning, it’s avoiding the dirtiness of planning and indicating the belief that success is preordained.

I’ll admit, nobody likes a Grumpy Gus. Well, I do, but that’s not the point. More to the point is that being a Grumpy Gus is probably Chapter 1 in the voluminous annals of why I am single right now. But this is really more a matter of perception, or mis-perception. And that’s my whole point to this rant; fine, you all think that I’m negative and gloomy, and that I should realize that this is something that I should correct in my character. But how many people want their doctors to just smile and put a peachy spin on everything? How many people want their military analysts to just think the best of all situations?

Not too damn many, huh?

So maybe there’s something to this cloud over my head. Or maybe there isn’t a cloud after all, except for the one that you’re drawing there. Maybe the problem isn’t that I’m seeing things in the negative, but that you’re seeing things a little too rose tinted. And, maybe I don’t really care, because I’m more often right in my “negativity” than the others are in their “optimism.”

Besides, chicks used to dig dark and brooding. Just ask Byron.

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