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Showing posts from January, 2013

Mustn't Grumble!

Compulsory optimism is an important feature of many social systems: in the Catholic church it's the "Hope" in Faith, Hope and Charity; in the army it's called "morale"; in the nation-state it's called patriotism. Its opposites are not mere intellectual pessimism but "despair" (a Deadly Sin), "defeatism" (a shooting offence under both Hitler and Stalin) and in more recent times "negativity". All of these formulations serve the same purpose, which is to quench criticism of the status quo. Until fairly recently however it hasn't been too prominent a feature of liberal democracies, precisely because a democracy must always remain open to critics. To be sure conservatives will often deploy terms like "moaning minny" as a straw-man when combating leftwing critics, but it's always remained a rhetorical device without any material sanction attached. That's why I was so fascinated by an excellent Short Cuts co…