When the most optimistic people aren’t feeling very optimistic

These times have been hard on almost everyone in some way or another.  In the past 2+ years (or maybe in the past 6+ years), we’ve learned that no-one is immune from the world’s problems: the challenges of global pandemics, the horror of being invaded by another country, or the massively destructive long-term impacts of man-made climate change.  We’ve learned that people aren’t in agreement about whether we should, as a society, try to make things better for everyone or whether we should just look out for ourselves; the “I’m all right, Jack” approach or, even worse, the “I’m all right, Jack, and I’ll screw you whenever possible” approach.

We’ve been reminded that our political leaders don’t necessarily agree on what’s in their constituents’ – or the world’s – best interest, although they do agree that getting re-elected is a good thing.  We’ve been reminded that capitalism, when it is unfettered by regulations that ensure living wages and environmental protections, allows the rich to get richer, the middle class to shrink, and the working class to get poorer.  We’ve learned that while the cost of groceries and transportation skyrocket beyond the reach of so many people living from paycheque to paycheque, other people have superyachts! Superyachts!! Un-friggin’-believable.

From the EconomistWorldTroublesEconomist 

So, yes, this former optimist has lost her zing for the world becoming a more peaceful, more understanding place.  Peace and understanding seems to be in short supply at the moment, which is heartbreaking to have to acknowledge.

I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Rose Vettleson, from Minnesota in the U.S., typically writes heartening posts of hope and kindness in her blog Of All the Things I’ve Ever Dreamed. A February post on Equality starts like this:

Friendly February Hopes – Equality

I dream of a world where Equality is as natural as breathing. Quite honestly, there’ve been many times this past year (and many more times during my life) where watching the inequality unfold around me, felt like a nightmare. It overwhelmed me, breaking my heart. I’m disgustedly perplexed by how one group of humans can behave so horribly to another group of humans – for no reason. All we have to do is look around us to see how treating people unequally ruins lives and futures for generations. Imagine how much misery we could erase if we treated each other equally.

It’s easy to hate from afar. We can hate and dismiss anyone we ‘think’ is different from us. It’s harder to hate someone whose story you know personally. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to talk with people and learn their story.

Rose discusses inequality in many domains in this short, readable post. She includes examples of racism, the fight for women’s rights, and injustices towards people coming out of poverty (such as herself). And she ends with an important reminder:

No one has the right to be a racist, sexist, bigoted bully.

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to learn, work, and be heard.

Put everything you’ve ever been told about ‘other groups’ aside. Get to know people’s individual story, and be sure to give the proper response.

From the UK, retired NHS nurse and counsellor Margiran calls her blog ‘Connection’ because, as she says, “I think that is what life is about, in a variety of different ways.  Building bridges, not barriers…. I know, often difficult isn’t it?! But we need to try.”


Judging by her post earlier this week, Margiran is finding the world’s inability to build these bridges as concerning as I am these days. Her post The Common Good starts like this:

For The Common Good

Global effects of the covid pandemic and the Ukraine/Russian War are making our lives more difficult financially. People who are already struggling are being hit hard. So when I hear it said that ‘successful’ people deserve their wealth, lives of luxury and good standards of living because they ‘work hard’ I question their reasoning. The implication, as I understand it, is that those who are poor, struggling, impoverished or destitute don’t work hard because when you do it’s all there for the taking …… you just need to ‘work hard’ to be a success, to be wealthy, to make it to the top! Well this doesn’t sound right to me.

The question arises as to what those of us who seek to appeal to the better nature of homo sapiens – the caring and responsible side – can do to help build better bridges between us. What can we do to help others who need a hand up?

Blogger Shira Destinie Jones, in California, is working on one answer, and she is looking for helpers! Shira has been working very hard on an ambitious long-term project: Project Do Better. Here’s a brief summary of the Do Better project:

Shira Destinie Jones, Project Do Better

This project began as the Four Freedoms Movement, formed on the basis of a problem, and the faith that any problem can be solved.

I have been pondering the problem of how to protect children from abusive adults, whether they be family or non-related guardians. The conclusions around this issue are not simple, because the issue, and the underlying causes of child abuse, are also not simple. There is a fairly simple way, however, of improving the lives of kids, and adults who take care of them: make sure they all have decent and safe housing, food, clothing, and health care.

These thoughts reminded me of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous Four Freedoms, and I began to wonder what it would take to get us there. The need for a basic safety net for kids, and how to get there from here, led me to imagine a series of steps that we could take, leading to a safer and kinder society, with enough for all of us, and especially for all kids. Breaking those steps up into a set of phases that could be worked on in 15-20 year chunks led me to begin outlining a book, which is now in the fifth draft stage, under the current working title of Do Better. This book will be offered free of charge, as my life’s work. All volunteers who wish to contribute to this project are welcome.

Shira is looking for beta test readers for her 5th draft.  If you might be interested in being one of her readers, or just finding out more about her ambitious and inspiring project, you can contact her most easily by writing a comment of interest at the end of her blog post.

If you have other ideas about how we can engage as individuals to help bring peace and hope to more corners of planet Earth, please feel free to share your thoughts.  There are many of us wanting to join – or rejoin – the positivity train.


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35 Responses to When the most optimistic people aren’t feeling very optimistic

  1. So you’re saying it’s not just me?

  2. margiran says:

    Listening to news here in UK on channel 4 (funded by advertising and from the public purse – Boris going to privatise it!!!!) and they’re talking about superyachts!
    (* Superyachts!! Un-friggin’-believable.)
    I thought of your *post Jane – can’t get past it without 😂🤣 even though I absolutely share it.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      LOL. Better to laugh than cry (or scream) about these obscene toys, I guess. The UK could probably fix its NHS woes and feed the kids going to school hungry by selling a few of them!! 😳

  3. I struggle wtih optimism, too. But I also see people doing great things for other people, for animals, and the environment on the news everyday. Yes, it feels like an uphill battle at times but it’s worth the fight. Thanks for sharing those blog links. I’ll check them out.

  4. Rose says:

    This is a wonderful idea, Jane, bringing together a ‘positivity train’, collecting those of us who hope to make the world better. I look forward to visiting the sites you suggest. While none of us have all the answers, we can all add something good. It’s so kind of you to mention my blog.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Rose. I truly enjoy your blog and your outlook on life. I especially appreciated that post on equality during Black History Month. You connected so many instances of inequality and injustice around us.

  5. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Just a little something to chew on and think about for awhile.

  6. Thanks Jane for both your words and the links to other good blogs. Just last night Jill and I had a spirited discussion around some of these topics just after I finished watching a hockey game from Florida as I mentioned the inequality of that seemingly innocuous behaviour. The fact that 30,000+ people could sit in summer clothes mere meters from hockey players playing on ice all the while this is being broadcast continent wide while many millions of people in out two countries go hungry and live in poverty is disgraceful. I then went on a tangent from there about the environmental cost of such an extravaganza and the true lack of will of most of us to do anything about it because we are comfortable and not threatened.
    Some days it is difficult to stay positive about the fate of my children and grandchildren.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      And the lack of will our politicians have to take the really tough decisions when votes and $s are at stake. Short-term thinking, self-interest, and greed are the culprits. You are a true humanitarian, my friend! Hang in there!!

  7. boblorentson says:

    As the author of a website I call Humor for a Doomed Planet, wherein I call myself an Optimist in Dreamland, I totally get how you’re feeling. Love to see how you pull in others with perhaps similar feelings but who are doing what they can to fight back or to at least not get overwhelmed. I think it’s good to be a pessimist of the intellect, but an optimist of the will, as someone once said.

  8. ShiraDest says:

    Thank you, Jane, for sharing Project Do Better!

  9. margiran says:

    An inspiring post Jane and many thanks for the mention 🙏🏼
    I’m going to have to read again and get my thinking cap on.

  10. debscarey says:

    It’s a difficult time to be alive. I imagine our ancestors who lived through both world wars must have felt likewise, as have all those unfortunate to have lived in those countries constantly in phases of upheaval and/or war. I find the singular lack of humanity, principle and intelligence in so many politicians so very hard to bear. It makes me feel powerless and fear for the future of my child and my grandchildren.

    • ShiraDest says:

      I feel likewise, but then I remember my own ancestors, some recent ones had to endure murders and orphanages, and others were enslaved. Then I realize that for their sake, if nothing else, I must continue to work for a better world, because we really can Do Better.
      We have the power, always, to choose how we will react to and deal with the situation at hand.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know, Debs. It’s that feeling of being overwhelmed by the disappointment in the lack of principles so many in positions of power are demonstrating, and the helplessness to make it right. How did we get here?

  11. It’s common to read the advice that it’s healthy to disconnect from devices at times. I take a similar approach to news, where I filter out certain topics, or really gear down on how much I read (I rarely watch news). I realize that to some extent it’s avoidance, or burying my head in the sand, but it works for me. Media is designed to attract readers, and sadly the good news stories take second place to sensationalism. Because of that, it can distort our real world view, and can increase pessimism. I’m not suggesting that others need to follow my approach, but rather that it works for me. 🌞

    • ShiraDest says:

      It’s reasonable, your approach, Francine: this is the same reason that I work to focus on what I can do that is not being (to the best that I can see) done, and try to fill that gap. It does take more effort to look away from the click-bait, but/and I find that taking action for the long term to build empathy and critical thinking tools helps me feel that at the very least, I’ve contributed something that may later help build on other solutions.

      Thank you, also, for your comment on Do Better. I hope you will have time to consider and offer more, as you are able.


    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know of a number of people who’ve given up on the news for the same reason, Francine. I don’t think I could do that, but it sure would be nice if they’d include at least one positive story in every newscast. There ARE positive news stories to be found, but you’re right, the newspeople definitely give them short shrift.

  12. Your comments on capitalism are timely, Jane. Just this morning I read about a now-former executive at the Applebee’s restaurant chain here in the U.S., who seemingly was cheering inflation because it means former workers who left would now return to their low-paying job out of desperation. He was later fired after the email leaked, but it did open the door to the current corporate mindset about workers. – Marty

  13. LA says:

    It’s funny because I’ve been overthinking positivity lately…I’m still working on my thoughts, so I don’t have anything for you…yet…

  14. Sounds like such a worthwhile book. If I weren’t so busy with my own book…And I do agree with her that one big step is to make sure families have enough to resources to live a decent life. This leads to more relaxed parents, which is better for everyone involved.

  15. Well said and totally in agreement!! I can’t help but worry of the future, not only for us, but clearly for our children and grands!!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. I think those of us who’ve lived in the “West” post-war have lived in an historical bubble, thinking/hoping that humans really do want peace in the world. Any remaining illusions on that score are being dashed. But destroying the planet and altering climate, sea level, etc. is something that we’ve managed to accomplish within our lifetimes. We have so much to turn around. I wonder how much could be put to good use if we could sell all the super yachts!

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