defeated versus defeatism … or … marvelous victory
“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.
It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.
If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” –
“It’s the one thing we never quite get over: that we contain our own future.”
That said. This is about the future and how our attitude with regard to defeated versus defeatism affects how we not only view the future but actually behave.
This attitude discrepancy, or difference, is important from maybe an odd perspective. The perspective I have that there is often “victory in the attempt” and, yet, without true ‘victory’ or success in the attempt at some point, well, ‘victory in the attempt’ is simply hollow.
Yeah. Without an occasional victory the ‘victory in the attempt’ becomes empty words and an empty tropism.
I say that because therein lies the truth of defeated versus defeatism.
Defeatism is not even attempting <just whining and wringing hands> while defeated is having attempted and failed <and yet you still have the opportunity to get back up and attempt again>.
Defeatism is … well … ongoing.
Defeated is but a moment in time or a specific situation.
I thought about this while participating in a very despairing discussion among TED people.
Yup. It can be incredibly despairing to participate in TED discussions. For a group of supposed ‘futuristic thinking’ professionals it always seems like the discussions are strewn with:
<a> people wanting to blame someone – Bush, Obama, corporations, the entitled, ‘other people’ … the list goes on and on,
<b> people who believe there is some conspiracy in that small groups of influential people gather in secret rooms sharing secret handshakes outlining how to manipulate the world to their benefit or,
<c> people who simply believe all is lost, the apocalypse is upon us and the destruction of civilization is inevitable.
And while it disturbs me that a so-called organization of future leaders like TED has embraced the different versions of defeatism so easily I would also suggest that we the people, let’s call it ‘today’s society;, seems hesitant to hope with regard to the future because it seems like we have embraced despair.
Unfortunately this is the type of general defeatism that undermines the whole idea of collective action.
It fosters a sense of “i-ism” or even “I against the world” and inevitably creates am energetic ‘anti-system’ mentality & focus. This defeatism is particularly insidious. It thrives on discontent, focuses on the failures of government and, yet, those actually elected simply obstruct and distract, making governance more difficult than ever, further reinforcing their message of dysfunction.
And this defeatism mentality, which begins with anti-system and devolves into basic rejectionism – rejection of anything and everything -, this spans from what the current issue is to what we should do to rectify this unagreed upon issue.
Therefore everything simply comes to a standstill as all stand and reject.
This mentality of rejectionism lacks real platforms and real policies.
This mentality is not an effective mechanism for improving the situation or the lives of people.
This defeatism, this rejectionsim attitude, rather than prompting action, embraces the tendency to prompt lack of action.
So what should we do?
We need to change our attitude. Everyone is quick to speak about the challenges facing us and reject any and all solutions available to us <as flawed>. In order to inspire change and action we need to move beyond criticizing <or diminishing that which is> and overcome our tendency to forget the good things … the ‘assets’ from which we can actually do something.
We, as in USA, have a lot of assets to work with.
We are a country and people of innovators <ranked as one of the highest in innovations and entrepreneurship globally>.
We are a well-educated country. Despite all the “sky-is-falling” prognostications our educational systems, albeit flawed> are still top notch in the same tier as the best in composite world education rankings.
We are a healthy country. Setting obesity & aging aside, we live healthier longer lives than almost any country in the world.
We are a huge robust economy. Despite the screams of ‘sky is falling’ from economic growth pundits the sheer critical mass of the country’s economy and output suggests the country is a robust player, an integral player in fact, in the global economy.
** none of these are meant to suggest there is not a need for improvements, some larger structural improvements, just that all is not bad
All that said it doesn’t seem like we should need a unifying purpose beyond ‘being best’ or ‘being better’ and yet we seem to be lacking a unifying purpose to shove defeatism off to the side and do what needs to be done as a society to make progress. And, once again, we should not confuse rejectionsim as a unifying purpose. That is simply a unifying criticism … not a direction.
Regardless of how we do it … it is essential that something should lead to a change in a somewhat ‘defeatism’ attitude. We are neither defeated nor should we embrace some fatalistic ‘defeatism’ attitude.
That is … well … giving up.
That is being defeated without even attempting victory.
And maybe that is where we get it wrong on this whole defeatism thing.
We only see victory in actual change.
Look. I am not suggesting there are not some bad things going on around us, but maybe the true victory today is simply not allowing the bad things without some defiance … not defeatism or rejectionism.
“… the future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
By continuing to focus solely on the perceived crises and challenges facing us we only reinforce the defeatism. This erodes Hope and subconsciously affects our behavior and certainly inhibits any opportunity for a marvelous victory.
We must show that we are able to influence positively our own future and the future of civilization.
This is the more difficult path. This is not just a ‘moment of defiance’ thing, but living defiantly over an infinite succession of presents.
“… remember that this is not something we do just once or twice.
Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime. “
We contain our own future. Awakening our heart, and soul, to what is right & worth doing is the work of a lifetime.
I don’t believe in false hope or empty ‘positive thinking’, but I abhor defeatism.
Give me the glory of defeat rather than the despair of defeatism any day.
In the marvelous attempt therein lies the hope that even in defeat there is at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
Interrupting the destructive habit of defeatism is the work of a lifetime … and not for the faint of heart.
note: I originally wrote this in April 2015, 2 months prior to Trump announcing his candidacy, with hindsight this may actually have been a thought with regard to what enabled Trump to tap into the zeitgeist of millions – defeatism and rejection-ism: the path of negativity.