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Posted on December 8th, 2015

Remote Senselessness – Insincere/False Optimism

They say people are well-intended for the most part. They also say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And maybe people do mean well in general. I guess so, for the most part that has seemed to be the case, but I can think of more than a few examples where I’d say the opposite was true. Certainly from my actions as well. So why do people say things like, “You’ll get the job,” or, “You’ll have no problem getting what you want for that piece of crap car”? It seems people want to be optimistic and “spread the love,” but really, unless you’re operating from fact you’re just blowing smoke up my butt and doing me no favors. Maybe society has eroded so much that these little meaningless gestures carry more weight than they should. I’ve never once said, “Oh, Bob said I’ll get the job.” Nevermind that Bob’s an idiot, I’ll embrace that assumption as likely to happen. More often than not I’ll just retain the “Bob’s an idiot” portion. I appreciate that people want the best for me; I certainly hope that I generally do for others as well. But I intentionally avoid spreading generic well-wishes. I’m very calculated in that way. I also don’t say “god bless you” or “gesundheit” either. It’s the same thing. If society has rotted down to that at its core, then we’re doomed.

I’ve been applying for a certain type of job for well over a year now. On paper I’m an above average candidate for the most part, but I’ve started to think that maybe I talk too much during interviews or don’t connect my ideas to the bigger picture very well. Or maybe people are just idiots. I’m more comfortable with that. Gesundheit! But every fool and their mother has said for 15 months that, “I’ll get a job. It just takes time.” Thanks, Sherlock. Real helpful. Why do we feel the need to say these social niceties? Is it just like talking about the weather with a stranger? Is it just something we’re supposed to say? So, you might ask, what would I rather someone say instead of providing words of encouragement (however falsely assumed and presented they are)? Well, if I know you, then let’s just talk about something we have in common. If I don’t know you, then ask me if I think it’ll rain.

My faith in humanity melts like ice cream in the sun, so it seems sometimes. Why do we allow ourselves to be bound together by these strained phrases, idioms and false declarations? Why is it so hard to find a common connection? There are too many of us to make every interaction a winner, true, but can’t we try a little harder on the ones we choose to take on? The saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say something at all.” Well, maybe you should just not say anything at all unless it is constructive. In the HBO show, The Newsroom, one of the main characters famously said, “There is no requirement to talk if you can’t contribute to the conversation.” I’d go one further and say there’s no requirement to talk if you can’t move the conversation forward. We’re all talk in the West. Maybe talk just makes us feel good about ourselves.

I hate Mondays.

So maybe when we say to someone, “You’ll get ‘em next time, slugger,” or “You’re a shoe-in for the job,” maybe that lip service is done for the speaker, not the recipient. Someone said that there is no truly altruistic behavior if you’re doing it because it makes you feel good. If that’s the case, then you’re doing it because it makes you feel good, not because you’re a good person. And maybe you are also a good person, but let’s not be so self-righteous. Provide the caveat that your actions are intrinsic but you hope the results are socially beneficial. At least you’ll be honest, and honesty is a lot more attractive than blatantly self-serving actions under the guise of martyrdom.

The situation, reversed: (Me) “So how’s the job search going?” (Some poor sap that needs a job) “Well, not so good. I’m getting a lot of bites but no offers. Hoping things will get better soon.” (Me) “Well, sorry to hear that. What are you going to do if they don’t?” (Poor sap) “Uhh, I don’t know. I kind of put all my eggs in one basket.” (Me) “That was dumb. No wonder you don’t have a job.” See, that’s realistic and honest. Unfortunately our society doesn’t do realistic and honest real well. Look at reality TV, it is neither honest nor realistic.

So I guess I’d ask society to quit saying things you don’t really mean and quit making false statements that aren’t rooted in some fact. In general, we (society) all (for the most part) believe that you’re well-intentioned, but you don’t have to sugarcoat the crap you’re peddling. It does nothing for anyone and gets us nowhere. While the saying goes that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, ain’t nobody trying to catch no flies. At least the vinegar reminds you to wake up. The honey just leaves your mouth feeling gummy and slow, and by the time it’s clear again, the world has turned once more.

I love my parents dearly, but they are the epitome of wishful thinking well-wishers. They have to be, I guess, they’re my folks. And while I’d just as much assume never get any unsolicited advice from them, I’d also assume not get any of that unending optimism. Alexander Pope said, “Hopes springs eternal,” and I buy into that, but let me produce my own hope. You produce something else if I ask you for it. You tend your garden, I’ll tend mine. If my garden gets eaten by rabbits and rampaged by mites, well, then maybe I’ll ask for some food from your garden. But I won’t want to hear about how my garden will bloom again next year. Unless you’re going to watch it 24/7 and provide a guarantee that it’ll bear fruit (pun intended), then stay off my lawn and stay out of my sense of reality. I don’t need to be getting bogged down with pointless posits of positivity; my necessary nuggets of negativity keep me grounded just fine. So how’s the weather? It’s fine. Don’t ask again.

Marco Esquandoles
Bitter Pill

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