Hopefully, we’re starting to build a case to understand how change happens. At the individual, granular level it occurs through a slow, mostly unconscious process triggered by a change in the opinions of those your respect. At a larger level it occurs through people, trolls, reacting to status quo by wanting to tear it down, sometimes replacing it with their own views, other times simply to watch the world burn. It’s this last part that we need to focus on today in order to get an understanding of where we’re headed.
So I mentioned in my last piece that trolls can be good or bad. That is to say, some people who are suspicious of the status quo, or a new change, want to replace it with something better, and others just want to tear things down and leave them destroyed. I flatter myself that I fall into the first category, but I can say with complete certainty that as some times in my life I have very much been the second. So what changed? Well, in my case I can trace it back to a book. “Jitterbug Perfume,” by Tom Robbins. It isn’t a great book. There isn’t much in the way of plot. The characters are fun, and some of the situations they find themselves in are pretty funny, but what I really took away from the book was a different perspective on death. You see, some of the characters chase immortality. Some of them even find some success. A big part of the book was why and how they tried to live forever. I found this concept fascinating. Death was something I was very aware of. It’s inevitability and permanence was a big source of stress in my childhood and adolescence. In my early 20s that view of death probably led me to make some decisions that may have been fun in the short term, but absolutely abysmal in the long term. In that book, though, someone was talking about living as long as you wanted. I started to joke that my goal was immortality, and so far, so good. But this joke actually had some positive effects on me. It made it a lot easier to start making healthier decisions. Diet, exercise, stress, and general attitude started to change for the better. And as my behavior changed, I believe that was the point I went from a troll who just liked to see things fall apart, to a skeptic who believed things could be better. In short, from a pessimist, to an optimist.
That is the key, I think. Pessimistic trolls tend to just want to tear down, and optimistic trolls want to tear down in order to improve. One way of observing differences in their day to day lives is to look at how healthy they are, mentally and physically. If someone is in a bad place in their life, making decisions that are transparently bad in the long term, it’s generally safe to say that, if they are trolls, they’re the bad kind, and probably can be disregarded. The pessimists may end up changing things to fit their views, but they are generally temporary. The optimists’ views tend to do better in the long term.
So finally we arrive at a place where we have enough information to get an idea what’s going to happen next. We’ll look at a few historical examples next, which should give us some insight as to how our world will continue to work.