It is not often that one has the pleasure to awake to a declaration of war. Displayed on my phone yesterday morning was the bellicose soundbite of the strikingly loathsome Andrea Leadsom. “Banish the pessimists!” the candidate yelled. Before I pack my bag and await my exile, as we pessimists tend not to fancy our chances in fights, let me defend my fellow party-poopers; those who truly understand the low value of what we have and the spectacular losses which we are now offered.
Optimistic politicians have the vexatious habit of continually asking us to “believe” in them. Belief is normally to be relied upon when expectations are limited. The Northern Irish football team’s slogan, “dare to believe,” is rather telling in this regard. Northern Irish people were subtly told that even believing in success will likely bring disappointment. After all, one does not feel the need to believe that we probably won’t win the lottery, or that Jeremy Corbyn probably won’t be the next Prime Minister; we can leave that to expectation.
Belief is easy: Expectation is not. If we were to expect that Britain would be able to toss aside all unwanted regulations after voting to leave the EU, contrary to the ramblings of experts, then we might feel a bit silly when said experts turn out to be right. If we only ‘believed’ it, then that’s all fine because we can always blame someone else for stoking our emotions. If we expected it, there is a sense of individual responsibility where we ourselves were making decisions based on evidence or lack thereof.
The world of expectations is a much harder one to live in. I expected, for example, that the country would not vote to leave the European Union because I believed that my fellow monarchic subjects were risk averse and susceptible to expert opinion. A little over half of my countryfolk confounded such expectations, leaving the other half bitterly disappointed.
Britain’s “Remain” campaign can be commended for often making the pessimist’s case for staying in the EU: Yes the EU is awful, but leaving the EU would be much worse. I am yet to see a single political system which is regarded pristine and without fault, yet somehow there are still few anarchists calling for the dismantling of all government everywhere. I agree, the world should be much better than it is now, but placing simple faith in the Brexit credo is hardly a plan for improving it. One is forced to believe in a handful of economists running contrary to their industry’s opinion: One is forced to have faith that most of our experts on Europe, who suggest that the modern world lumps us with regulations whether we like it or not, are wrong. Hence, we pessimists are to be banished lest we collectively poop the proverbial party.
As I frequently remark to friends; politics is the industry of disappointment. The only ones who can ever be fully satisfied in politics are dictators. The political system requires, after all, for us to live with compromises with our fellow citizens. These compromises will never fulfil our own visions of what the ideal society should look like, hence democratic citizens are equal in their despondency. Yet, is it right that I force upon you my own utopia? This is the problem and beauty of democracy; we are all left dissatisfied, but less so than most of us would be under dictatorship.
Such pessimism should be required when facing important issues affecting our frail system of communal dissatisfaction. If our situation is already poor, is it not sensible to make decisions based on expectation rather than belief, evidence rather than emotion? With expectation, one is required to put effort and thought into our decision making and we must be ever aware of unnecessary risks. Belief is easier. We place our future in the hands of Ms Fortune, a mistress we should all have learned not to trust by now. When she smiles we all self-congratulate: When she frowns we all wonder why we trusted her. Heaven knows why she’d ever smile! Important decisions merit rigour and scepticism on the part of the public. If we are to be labelled pessimistic by career-minded, fortune-reliant, politicians then “pessimist” is a badge we should wear with pride.
Voltaire, a man much smarter than I, once wrote that “those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” This appears to be the worrying face of Leadsom’s optimism. Who knows what policies may be enforced upon us British subjects should her platform avoid its deserved rigorous examination. We’ve already believed our way out of the European Union and into the most avoidable recession in history. What will be believe ourselves into next?
Look to the left, there sits the Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn ever clinging to power in the Labour party ordering us to believe that if he survives this attempted coup that he will lead Labour on to victory in the next election, which could be as early as this year. The likely atrocity from this stance is that the Labour Party may either split or fade into insignificance, gifting executive power to either Andrea Leadsom or Theresa May.
If there was ever a time for pessimism, now may be it. The optimists have us satisfied with mere belief, in so doing allowing us to leave our government in the hands of fortune and leaps of faith. The pessimists think otherwise. If something is to mess up our country, better to leave it to incompetence rather than belief.