Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Do you believe? (2)

My first "do you believe" touched on the messages of those classic Christmas movies, goodwill to our fellow man, and the false importance of money and possessions in our lives.

This post reflects on a recent survey I encountered where people of varying income levels were asked if they are optimistic or pessimistic about their personal future and about the national future as a whole. 

As expected, there was a ratio equating more optimism with the higher income respondents.  And, it being the start of a new year, there was a higher percentage of people with an optimistic outlook across all income groups; if nothing else, Americans are a positive group despite personal and/or national economic problems. 

What intrigued me was the stark difference between the optimism felt by people for their personal future as opposed to what they felt for the nation as a whole.  Across all income levels, individuals were more optimistic by at least 10, sometimes as much as 20 percentage points for themselves as for the country as a whole.  In other words, they felt their own lives would improve but did not think the lives of their friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans were likely to improve as well.

Is this common?  Do we always think we can beat the odds on a personal level but do not think the same for others?  From a historic perspective, was the idea that our country as a whole had a bright future more prevalent in the 1950's?  1970's?  1990's?  Did we more closely tie our personal optimism to our optimism about our country in past decades?

I titled this blog, Do you believe? because I lean towards the concept that believing that "things will get better" is as much a part of the solution to making things better as any other factor.  The psychology of believing in one's future, in one's country's future goes a long way towards overcoming the everyday problems that life brings our way. 

Is your cup half full or half empty? 

Don't get me wrong.  I certainly don't mean to suggest that putting on a happy face is enough to solve the problems of the day.  Real problems require real solutions but perhaps finding those solutions is more easily accomplished if one believes there is a solution to find.

The second part of the equation is a belief in each other.  If we feel confident that we can tackle our own issues but less confident in our family, friends and neighbors then we might tend to address the problems individually rather than collectively.  I understand that we are a capitalistic society with a strong avoidance mechanism of anything that smacks of socialism, but man is a social animal.  While we may still tend towards the occasional tribalistic actions, we still prefer to live in communities, among others like ourselves. 

The idea that we can tackle our own problems by ourselves, belies the obvious fact that without the help of each other, no serious problem can ever be solved.  We need each other.

Need a job?  Well you need an employer to hire you.  Sick?  You need a doctor's advice.  Sad?  You need friends, loved ones, perhaps even a professional to help you see and feel the love that exists, and provide a door for you to cross towards that love.

I am sure that there is no provable way for me to substantiate what I am about to suggest, but I would imagine that a correlation exists between those nations/civilizations that saw the greatest advancements  in the welfare and happiness of its citizens and the simple act of believing in each other.  Whether these accomplishments centered on achieving a higher standard of living or defeating a power mad lunatic, it was through the accumulated efforts of each and every person and the belief that someone "had my back" that made those achievements possible.

Do you believe?

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