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Positivity and the bravery it takes

“A positive attitude takes far more bravery than any destructive joke: someone has to rationally choose to be unnaturally hopeful and believe that there is still something worth wishing for, all while bracing themselves to a potential failure”

It has probably occurred to the (hopefully many) people reading this article that a rather destructive theory of superiority has taken the lead in a vast array of occasions and events. Wait, I do not even know what that destructive thing is! What are you babbling on? Well, if you have not grasped yet the point of this article from the few keywords dropped, I suggest taking both a seat and some time to read about the courage behind a positive mindset in such a trying society.

Picture this: you have just woken up, you open your bedroom’s window and see pure white snow all over the mountains, hills, rooftops and streets. You are obviously very excited about it and you feel like posting an Instagram story. So, you hurry to take your phone; but as you are about to take a photo, you realize that many friends of yours have already posted countless complaints about the people that have published a picture of the snow and since they have windows at home too, they do not really need your update.

Taking into consideration this silly example, have you ever stopped to think why your friends have felt the urge to post such a complaint? The answer is the theory of superiority.

First studied by Aristotle and then carried out by many other scientists after him, the theory of superiority claims that people tend to laugh and make fun of a specific group of people in order to show off a social or intellectual superiority. This also happens whenever someone makes fun of e.g. tourists, usually portrayed as a brainless herd of sheep only capable of taking photos and gazing at everything they bump into, most of the time teased for the mere purpose of proving to others a sort of intellectual and social prestige.

In this case, however, we do not see laughs and jokes but indifference, depicted in the bitter reactions of those who complain about pictures of snowy landscapes, in order to show intellectual superiority along with that apathetic outlook on life, which then builds up into the destructive mindset described above.

Nonetheless, this wreckful approach reaches its peak whenever someone shuts down positive actions only to enhance an alleged superiority and highlight other people’s supposed aloofness and naïveté (e.g. “oh yeah, keep on marching for climate change, as if it can actually bring something to the table!”).

But why are people so indifferent and therefore so consumptive for others? To explain this phenomenon, one should consider the biological pessimistic inclination of the human race (proven by intellectuals like D. Kahnemann ndr. economic psychologist) and the disillusioned context this same race lives in – the so called “post-modernism”, where, as explained by J. Lyotard (ndr. philosopher), human beings experience the downfall of all the certainties acquired during Positivism: they start questioning the real meaning of existence, often coming to the conclusion that there isn’t actually any. Therefore, many people will think of life as a pointless void, a realization often projected into a critical and pessimistic attitude, then displayed on social medias, their life and the life of others.

It has been scientifically proven by psychologists such as the already mentioned D. Kahnemann that it’s easier to spot other people’s mistakes than ourselves’. This only goes to prove that it is easy for people to judge others’ positive initiatives: people will criticize the work of others and will not hesitate to do it, so as only to show their disillusioned outlook on life - especially if this same work is carried out in the name of a change for the better e.g. the already mentioned fight for climate change-.

In this respect, a positive attitude takes far more bravery than any destructive joke: someone has to rationally choose to be unnaturally hopeful, expose themselves to free criticism and even believe that there is still something worth wishing for, all while bracing themselves to a potential failure. Even right now, one could easily come up with some of the greatest (and bravest) pessimists in history that still believed in a better future: Giacomo Leopardi (ndr. poet and philosopher) described Nature as an evil mother that bore us just to see us suffer. ; yet, He knew that if all the people had stood together against her, they could have loosened the suffering. Miguel de Unamuno (ndr. writer, poet and philosopher) was more than convinced of the tragic meaning of life but still protested against the upcoming totalitarianism of Primo de Rivera.

Humans are undeniably a pessimistic species and the environment they live in might contribute to the creation of a barren ground for a more uplifting attitude, nevertheless, it is possible to fight this natural tendency and find something to hold on. Switching mindset overnight can be understandably hard, but looking on the bright side of life never killed anybody.

Articolo a cura di: Sara Magnacavallo

D. Kahnemann, Pensieri lenti e veloci, Milano, Mondadori, 2012

P. Pearce and A. Pabel, Tourism and Humor, Bristol, Channel View Publication, 2015

C. Rabaté and J. Rabaté, Miguel de Unamuno: Biografía, Editorial Taurus

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