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  • It might be normal to imagine that a good society would be one in which a majority of

  • people held optimistic views about themselves, their fellow citizens and their prospects

  • for their collective futures. But, in fact, quite the opposite appears to be true: deep

  • pessimism seems a key ingredient for the maintenance of any good society. At the core of pessimism

  • is the idea that everyone, however outwardly normal, is severely flawed: short-term, blinkered,

  • vengeful, sentimental and prone to reckless anger, fear, delusion and passion. We're

  • mad monkeys, with a few extra neurones. From a brutal acceptance of this dark starting-point,

  • there can flow a range of measures that together will make for exceptionally wise, calm and

  • reasonable societies. Let's consider a few: In an ideally pessimistic society, rather

  • boring and extremely steady politicians are the norm. No one believes the wilder utopian

  • promises of firebrand leaders. The electorate is simply far too pessimistic to trust in

  • easy, rapid solutions to any of the nation's substantial problems. Dramatic promises at

  • the stump are immediately discounted with a wry, dismissive shrug. Because pessimists

  • know just how flawed any one individual can be, the ideal pessimistic society invests

  • heavily in strong, slow-moving, independent institutions that prevent too much power from

  • ever falling into the hands of a single person. Furthermore, these institutions are insulated

  • from the fluctuations of public opinionwhich, pessimistically, are seen as being hugely

  • prone to hysteria and overreaction. In the ideal pessimistic society, there won't be

  • much appetite for singling out any particular group or class of people for blame. Our troubles,

  • the electorate sadly admit, are caused mainly by big impersonal, historical forcesrather

  • than by a few people who are easy to target and cathartically hate. Because they assume

  • that it's natural to have rather dangerous appetites and desires, the citizens of a pessimistic

  • society willingly put quite a lot of restraints on themselves, defining freedom not as the

  • ability to do whatever they want at any point, but as the liberty to act in accordance with

  • their wisest, most reasonable selves (which only appear every now and then). They therefore

  • don't see it as any particular loss of freedom to be gently nudged away from blowing their

  • savings, overeating, doing no exercise, ruining their relationships or developing addictions.

  • They accept a paternalistic society as the natural price for limiting their own self-destructive

  • tendencies. Pessimistic societies don't have much time for celebrity culture, for

  • they are dubious about whether anyone much deserves to be idolised: they know that from

  • close up, we're all a bit of a mess. And they're not shocked by revelations of chaotic

  • private lives, since this is assumed to be the norm. Spare energy is directed more towards

  • forgiveness rather than adulation followed by denigration. In pessimistic societies,

  • the education system is elaborate, broad, ambitious and very well resourced; citizens

  • assume that the raw human mind needs a huge amount of structured, targeted help in order

  • to cope with life's challenges. The curriculum isn't merely focused on technical skills

  • though; there is a lot of help around emotional issues toowhich, it's acknowledged,

  • are at the root of so many of our tragedies. Because they acknowledge that we're all

  • fragile, easily irked creatures, pessimistic societies place great emphasis on creating

  • quietly uplifting and beautiful communal environments. Cities are marked by elegance, simplicity,

  • rationality and harmony. A stridently ugly tower block, a depressingly chaotic airport,

  • a squalid railway stationthey darkly admitcould be enough to drive someone

  • to despair. The rich have always recognized this for themselves; a pessimistic society

  • merely differs in regarding this as a universal truth. In optimistic societies, there are

  • constant claims that everyone can be exceptional and, one day, awe-inspiringly successful.

  • The charms and rewards of life are therefore fundamentally geared towards those who make

  • it to the top. The best restaurants are superb, the private hospitals are outstanding, the

  • most expensive schools magnificent, the richest residential areas delightful, the taxes for

  • the rich very low. But, naively, such societies forget that, by statistical inevitability,

  • most people are actually not going to be successful at all. So in the pessimistic society, mediocrity

  • and relative failure are assumed to be the norm and the goal of government is understood

  • to be that of rendering an average life (that is, the life most people will actually lead)

  • as attractive as possible. Public housing, state schools, public hospitals and transportation

  • are all superb, because it's assumed (with extreme realism) that we're almost all going

  • to be relying on them. By following such pessimistic dictates, the profound consequence will be

  • a society whereparadoxicallythere will be rather a lot to be cheerful about

  • though, of course, the wary, gloomy and wise citizenry would never quite dare to put

  • it like that.

  • At The School of Life we believe in developing emotional intelligence.

  • To that end we've also created a whole range of products to support that growth.

  • Find out more at the link on the screen now.

It might be normal to imagine that a good society would be one in which a majority of

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善良な社会はなぜ悲観的なのか (Why Good Societies Are Pessimistic)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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