Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Compulsory optimism or Death to Frowners!

In the latter part of her book "Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Optimism Has Undermined America", Barbara Ehrenreich has some interesting things to say about optimism and life in some dictatorships.

In his 1968 novel, The Joke, the Czech writer Milan Kundera has a character send a postcard bearing the line "Optimism is the opium of the people," for which the character is accused of being an enemy of the people and sentenced to hard labor in the coal mines. Kundera himself was punished for daring to write The Joke. He was expelled from the Communist Party, saw his works removed from libraries and bookstores, and was banned from traveling to the West.

[He later became a French citizen.]

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Kindle Locations 3075-3079). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

I read a while back that the Chinese government tries to keep a lid on its populace, given the enormous Chinese population (in the neighborhood of four times the US population - actually 4.25, when dealing in millions, .25 is quite large).  I suppose all governments have an easier time if their people are happily singing on the way to work, while working, and happily on the way home. Like the song in the Disney movie "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", heigh-ho, it's home from work, we go.

I don't know if drugs exist that can put a person in a high and pleasant state while not bringing fatigue or inability to concentrate, or lack of interest in work and effort.  I guess to some extent, beer will do some of that, sometimes, for some people.

Optimism can be carried a bit far, as in the well-known scene from "Spamalot", from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail":

"Always look on the bright side of life".

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