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Messengers of Hope lack Street Cred

Yesterday I wrote about how making generally optimistic statements in public counts as a form of trolling when you've been collecting narratives about how industrial civilization is eating its seed corn and spoiling its nest. I got some feedback reminding me how the people holding the short end of the stick don't want to hear how good things are from the people who never have to worry about making rent or about how they're going to pay for the dental work they desperately need but have nowhere near enough savings to pay for out of pocket.

I totally get that. It infuriates me to hear from college professors who make ten times as much as I do how I've been living on Easy Street my whole life because of my white skin. Sure, I would have accumulated more infuriating encounters with police if I'd had darker skin and been subject to varieties of peer pressure which were never a problem for me, but I am not open to hearing that message from people who have meaningful, well-compensated work with benefits and access to all of the amenities of a university campus. That would be like me telling someone in prison that they should be grateful the structure and motivation to work out that prison life affords them.

Telling people who don't have it as good as you have it that they have more than they deserve just doesn't fly.
And the supposed good news that David Brin and Steven Pinker are offering, that humans aren't as nasty to one another as they used to be, is the exact opposite of good news to misanthropic environmentalists. If you're convinced that humans are ecocidal apes and that every human born is another nail in the coffin of Mother Earth, the last thing you want to hear is that the killer apes aren't controlling their own numbers like they used to. Better that they kill each other than kill the Earth to make more iPhones, toy guns and peanut butter-filled pretzels.

And conspicuously absent from the statistics that give Brin and Pinker such cause to be cheerful was anything to indicate the state of the relationship between industrial civilization and the health of the biosphere. So, yeah, unqualified optimism seems to be the privilege of those with well-compensated, meaningful work, security and stability. And a spot of fame is the cherry on top.

658 words

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