On Optimism

A: Do you honestly believe that our species will ever be free of its barbarism, violence, and cruelty?

B: Sometimes, when I’m feeling pessimistic, I do not.

A: Yet you counsel patience. You believe that, with time, our species will learn how to coexist with its environment and with itself. Aren’t you being a bit naïve?

B: I don’t think, necessarily, that naïve is the right word. You must remember that our species has only been around for 200,000 years. We are young, and learning, and — hopefully — growing.

A: Yes, I agree that we are learning. But the forces of ignorance are strong. And our tribalism, which takes the face of nationalism today, is an inherent aspect of hominid species. Tribes work for their own interests, usually at the expense of other tribes. This is not in doubt. This is a fact.

B: Yes, this is a fact.

A: And do you honestly believe that we will be able to overcome our tribalism and be able to view ourselves as something other then either American or European or Chinese or Arab or Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or —

B: Yes, please, stop I see your point.

A: Then you also see that the the differences that tribalism engenders — and the conflicts that arise from those differences — are perhaps written into our genetic code. Tribalism is our genetic inheritance. And, as such, we cannot escape it.

B: Pandora kept hope in the box.

A: Hmm. Interesting. I never thought that you were a closeted optimist.


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