People are naturally optimistic and need optimism to live life, to wake up each morning, to have children, to do anything. Human beings need to believe that a better tomorrow is possible.
We must wrestle optimism from the stinking hands of the neo-liberals who say “the few small issues with capitalism can be fixed and everything will improve”, which even mainstream normies have to increasingly suspend disbelief in order to stomach.
We must reject its fraudulent expressions, and realign optimism with a true hope for all humanity based on a scientific understanding of the world, objective observations of contemporary global dynamics, and a concrete Marxist vision of the future.
Radical Optimism shall be the principle outlook which guides our modus operandi, not only as antidote to pervasive Western doom, gloom, nihilism, and bourgeois pessimism, but as the true path forward for all life on Earth.
Sean Sanchez suggested that perhaps this radical optimism can or needs to be dialectical in this current era and in the context of life in the collapsing imperial core: “optimistic nihilism” or “nihilist optimism”. In his words:
in our current system, I think I’ve found a way forward through revolutionary and optimistic nihilism. I am opposed to nihilism at the end of the day but in order to face the current situation maybe we need to accept oblivion and defeat while realizing that because our future has been canceled then we have nowhere to go but up and are given permission to do what’s near impossible since failure is already imminent. It’s “fuck it, I have nothing better to do but try”. We might die or fail but we’ve set the benchmark for possible future generations and it may be the spark needed to ignite change if that change isn’t possible right now in the west.
Perhaps a new permutation of the old leftist slogan born of the cold war “pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will”?
Yes, Radical Optimism must also be about accepting the decline and death spiral of the capitalist order, which of course is very tragic and heart breaking for millions —just to name one aspect, an entire sphere of culture born of contradiction, antagonism, and oppression, such as Absurdist theater, Dadaist art, Black Metal, and Gangsta Rap, which we have come to love and hold dear, will disappear with capitalism.
An entire world view that stems from colonial epistemology, an entire way of life centered around the individualism that capitalism extols, is ending. And what people have done in the situation they are put into, how they have adapted to the unjust framework, how they have survived, and what they have created in the colonial capitalist sphere is not bad, and a lot of should or has to be mourned.
But at the same time, we can see the greater promise of an exponentially improved socialist global future, where much more amazing art of a different character can be created and enjoyed by much greater percentage of populations. When African and European musical ideas met 100 years ago, under horrendously oppressive conditions and despite every suppression, gave us the most epic and fruitful musical explosion of a millennium, jazz — just imagine the hybridisation to come, without brutality, subjugation, or restriction.
This future is not in our fantasies, but already beginning to materialise in the rise of anti-imperialist states and the rapidly developing strength of regions formerly devastated by colonialism and capitalism. Anyone who cares to look can already see the seeds of a new world budding, as imperialism irreversibly recedes, and the imperialist capitalist era passes.
Jobless, addicted, climate apocalyptic total crushing despair on one side, and the reality of high tech luxury sustainable eco space communism we can already glimpse on the other.
We communists derive optimism from the rise of a multi-polar world and the possibility or even probability of global socialism with local characteristics, and from the painful and traumatic decline and ending of imperialism and capitalism. We are optimistic at the same time despite of as well as because of, the nihilism we also feel.
I suppose it requires a much larger, global, and millennial outlook which most people simply can not grasp. But that’s OK. Radical Optimism is maybe not yet for the masses, but the vanguard.