Because the status is not… quo

Can I just clarify something about this blog? I know that the vast majority of posts here are criticising something that’s going on that I think is making things worse, making people suffer, causing injustice or unfairness – but this is because I’m an optimist. These are all things I firmly believe we can do better. And should. I argue against the status quo in areas where I think the worst possible response is to just accept “that’s the way it has to be”. It isn’t.

You know that old definition of the pessimist and optimist – the former seeing the glass as half empty, the latter seeing it as half full? I reckon that’s the wrong way around. The pessimist would have expected the glass to be empty, and would be surprised to find it with any liquid at all – “oh, it’s half full? Well, I’m sure it’s poisonous.” The optimist would have expected the glass to be completely full, and would be disappointed to find it wasn’t – “really? They left some out? Didn’t expect that. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be full next time.”

I’m an optimist because in all of these areas (including glass filling) I am convinced there is a positive path to something better, and that highlighting what’s wrong with the status quo is simply the first step to improving it.

I know we can’t change the world alone. But we can make sure we’re part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Is that really so negative?

25 responses to “Because the status is not… quo

  1. Jeremy,

    You’d be a lot more effective at changing the ‘quo if you got rid of a little bit of your ego.

    I find that debating with you is a case of “I will use my lawyer brain to make as many scatter-gun points as I can, and if that doesn’t end up being somehow right, or else confuses the hell out of you, well I’ll simply ignore you. It’s my bat and ball (blog) after all…”

    If you want to assume a leadership position, you will need people to trust your leadership. A leader is someone who engages in debate honestly and with the intention of finding some objective resolution – not ‘winning’ the ‘case’.

  2. Interesting. That’s what I think I do.

  3. Ok, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you ‘do’ the second one.

    In which case: evidence time. Show me a post (or 2 or 3) where comments have forced you to recant on the original post.

    Partially or completely, but completely is preferred.

  4. No. I do not have time to go hunting around old comment threads, and in any case this is off topic. I could just as easily ask you for an example of “make as many scatter-gun points as I can, and if that doesn’t end up being somehow right, or else confuses the hell out of you, well I’ll simply ignore you” – but I won’t, because this post is not about that, and I’d like the comment thread to actually address the point in the post.

  5. lol. Ok jeremy.

  6. This post must not have been as clear as I thought it was. I thought it was about why I often sound critical and cynical, and how seeming negativity is actually optimism.

  7. invig, I can recall numerous instances of Jeremy changing his mind about something as a result of discussion here. I don’t find him inflexible at all.

    I also don’t find Jeremy overly negative. I think a negative blogger would be one who simply carps about problems without offering solutions – a certain Herald Sun writer springs to mind, as an example. Jeremy generally tends to go on to say what he feels should happen instead of what is actually happening. Anyway, that is my impression of this blog.

    (poster formerly known as fredphillips)

  8. That’s hardly a recant!

    Jeremy was using sarcasm to make the point that politicians don’t take rail seriously (which I would agree with) – often for spurious reasons.

    Obviously we have in the past. We do have trains (which were built some time), after all.

    It is however an example of Jeremy using excess negativity to make a point. Which is all well and good, and not so much a problem, except that it contains no intrinsic logic bar that of ‘trains are good’.

  9. buns, if you have time, please find them. I would like to know myself if I need to recant.

  10. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy’s optimism is endearing in a crazybrave kind of way. He seems to have a passionate belief that if he can get people to think about issues, they will be persuaded by reasoned discussion.

    I like this place because the proprietor tolerates dissent. I like a good argument. At this place I am spoilt for choice, like a pervert in a pet shop.

  11. confessions

    ‘Changing the world’ also requires acceptance that progress towards the desired effect (however small) is still positive – even though it might not be what we ultimately would like to see.

    I don’t find the pessimist/optimist terminology particularly compelling in this context, I have to say.

  12. SB –

    I agree that the blog is a good one, and leads to many interesting discussions – that Jeremy poses with his terrier-like interest in current affairs.

    However, i think that the very pinnacle of realisation is often missed. That is, when – if all contributors put aside their egos and engaged their brains – there might be some amazing conclusions reached.

    But, when ego is omnipresent, people just can’t let go and it doesn’t happen. And everyone walks away believing what they did previously. Although perhaps a little better informed.

    But, nevertheless, an opportunity has been lost. Will it come again? Maybe. But the opportunity is a rare one. A rich society with well-educated people able to indulge in debate to which they all have a unique contribution.

    Will we look back on these one day and see them as opportunities missed?

  13. Good lord, Invig. It might be best if you’re talking about someones ego if you sounded slightly less pompous.

    Although I did just get an incredibly amusing image of Jeremy as a terrier, trotting in with the morning newspaper and tapping away with tiny paws on his laptop.

  14. Blast Tyrant

    Would Jerrier (that’s Jeremy as a Terrier btw) be as friendly to Polly and the other one (Max?) though Kerry?
    I suspect he would become somewhat distracted from his usual blogging activities…

  15. Splatterbottom

    Invig, unfortunately even though humans are capable of rationality, this faculty is infrequently exercised. Most decisions humans make are irrational, being based on impulse and appetite. Even when attempting to be rational, ego is always in the background, as you pointed out. However much you may prefer calm and enlightened discussion, human nature will always ultimately prevail.

    The best way to tease out issues is by a dialectical method of strong assertion, and counter-assertion. Because human nature is what it is, often people will change their views as a result of such a conversation, but not immediately admit it. This may because the process involves some rumination, or it may be fear of embarrassment.

    To avoid this, it is better not to adopt a label, like ‘leftist’, which encourages conformity at the expense of reason. The political imperative to support one’s own party corrodes rational decision-making.

  16. Wisdom Like Silence

    What is it with you and nicking all of my quotes?

    And abso-fuckin-lutely to being part of the solution. I comment here because the back and forth, while sometimes puerile and immature, is good for honing my own arguments and what I think of the world. The best way to do that is to bitch about everything, then go away and have a think about what needs changing.

    Decisions are made by those who show up, and I think the kinds of people who comment here have their walking shoes on.

  17. galleryagain

    “I know we can’t change the world alone. But we can make sure we’re part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.”

    By itself that statement is positive and sort of inspirational, but because your self selected role in helping to change the world is one of finding faults, your blog posts have an extremely negative feel about them. Sometimes after reading your work I just have to go and find a humour site to get my head back to normal.

    As others have posted, your work does provoke thought and you do often present your idea of a solution which then moves on to discussion – and that’s why I still read your blog.

    Bringing together an answer/statement from some of the other responses today:
    – your inheritance tax idea from a few years ago was just so wrong it is one of the few posts I remember in detail – but from memory I think you had some form of recanting on the idea either in the responses or in a post not too long afterward.

    Back on the negative aspect…

    We can’t change the world by just being happy, we need to fix the faults, and the faults need to be identified – you just seem to target the faults with this blog. Having never met you, or read any of your other blogs (except PP), for all I know you could be the class clown with everybody around you in constant pain from smiling and laughing. I don’t think that’s the case but I could be wrong.

  18. I don’t find Jeremy’s blog depressing or negative at all. (You should see some of the stuff I read.)

    Its rare he posts a complaint about something without offering an alternative that at least deserves discussion. You can’t really ask much more, cos he lets peoples arguments stand. SB for example. (BTW SB I used to think you were a complete arsehole, but the more I get to read your opinions the more I think you bring something good to this blog. Even tho you rarely change my mind on anything.)

    ” …unfortunately even though humans are capable of rationality, this faculty is infrequently exercised. Most decisions humans make are irrational, being based on impulse and appetite. Even when attempting to be rational, ego is always in the background, as you pointed out.”

    Its not just that. Emotions are a valid thing. They are connected to consciousness as much as the rational part of our mind that deals with semantics is. And sometimes its good to allow them to inform your judgements.

    Not everything should be balanced and measured rationally.

    That what inspired the eugenicists (whatever their political leanings, those on the left and right.) And as a result terrible things were done. A bit of empathy could have helped there.

    There’s a good balance between emotion and rationalism here tho, imo.

    Its emotion that inspires what many of us see as “wrong” with the world. Its rationalism that should find answers to those issues.

    Thats the theory anyway.

    And the internet is good, but ultimately, its just people talking about stuff. Getting stuff done requires actual action. (Talking about stuff can help plan and coordinate that action too.)

  19. baldrickjones

    At least you show a willingness for political engagement. But I personally feel that your devotion towards the Greens tends to skew your judgement occasionally (just IMO). I personally feel that engagement (or god forbid “progression”) on issues tends to move slowly. You should accept that and not automatically believe that those who oppose your ideas are simply “bigoted”, “fundies”, or other derogetary comments. Unless you want to be dictator of the country, you have to accept contrary views, sometimes without explanation (sorry, but that’s how democracy works).

    I do agree that you allow a engaging format here with people on opposite sides of the political spectrum – hence why I comment and read here in the first place. That’s a positive that you should be congratulated for. Well done.

  20. Cheers. But I don’t think I “automatically believe that those who oppose your ideas are simply “bigoted”, “fundies”, or other derogetary comments.” I think that those opposition to equal rights is a form of bigotry, but otherwise, not really.

    BTW, I’m not “devoted” to the Greens in particular, I just think that at the moment they’re the best chance for challenging the stranglehold of the corrupt old parties, whilst also bringing the political balance back towards public services and personal freedoms.

  21. usesomesanity

    Mums and Dads who drive wilst disqualified still have to wait till July 2011 not to be mandontary sent to jail. WTF?! And only if labor gets re-elected or the current mandontary jail term will stay beyond that… seriously people get less for sending economies broke… justice pftt…

    See 3min. mark of:

    Does this punishment fit the crime?A little heavy handed?

  22. Precisely … this is the point.

    Along with getting disappointed, we need to look for the water to fill the glass even if it’s a single drop. Don’t wait for others. Start alone, others will certainly follow!!!

  23. Much to my surprise I have found myself, along with SB and a few others, to be one of the old dogs of this blog.

    My contributions have been sparse and never as entertaining as SB and a few others, but I have been paying daily attention for the last 4 or 5 years.

    I’ve noticed a few things during those years.

    Jeremy is arrogant and churlish.
    He developes his ideas and he doesn’t like to have them challenged.
    I’m willing to bet that in his real life, Jeremy is open to compromise , but on this blog, he is steadfast and firm.
    That’s probably a product of his legal training.

    When Jeremy is right, then Jeremy is very right.

    Our dear host has a mind which is able to produce reasoned arguments which embrace well considered ethical, social and legal stances in a progressive package which is both defensible and laudable.

    When Jeremy is wrong,well….meh!

    Jeremy’s second greatest trait as a blog host is his ability to welcome and engage with dissenting opinions.
    His greatest trait is to lambaste those dissenters when their arguments are based on foolishness.

    I think that hosting a blog must be very hard work.
    Jeremy has to come up with our Pablum, whilst all we have to do is coo or puke.

    My only suggestion would be that the Grandads of this blog (like me and SB and a few others), should get of our arses and comment more often in a positive and engaging way.


  24. BTW, on the topic of half full and half empty, I defer to the wonderful Mr. Leunig.


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