On skepticism and happiness
To say that I am a skeptic is an understatement. I don’t think that murdering a figurehead like Osama bin Laden will bring an end to extremism, nor that keeping a currency artificially high will bring the best results in the long run. The eternal New Yorker in me sees skepticism as a mode of survival, but in California this seems to work against me. The happy folks out here equate skepticism to pessimism, and pessimism to downright grouchiness.
Well, happy people, you are both right and wrong. A good friend, calling himself a humanist, lives by the motto that he can’t control others’ happiness, but can at least ensure that he does things to make himself happier. While I would never deny the benefits of an Epicurean lifestyle, there’s something to be said for empathy. People everywhere are struggling–not in deciding between two different cars or girlfriends–but to survive. And there’s beauty to the struggle, always. But to ignore it because it doesn’t fit neatly into the bubble lifestyle of VC funding and 401Ks is to ignore one’s roots… and forgetting our roots is the most common mistake we make as a species. So we continue to be amazed by the harshness and anonymity of war, the nostalgia for extinct species as we keep losing more, the scale of revolutions technological and political alike.
One step forward, two steps back.
I don’t think foreign aid is the answer to others’ struggles. Charity rarely is, mostly because it’s not sustainable and lacks an accountability mechanism (though it arguably needn’t have any). I don’t think stopping FDI inflow will prevent land grabs, nor do large-scale land acquisitions have to be inherently unwise. They just often are. Things are more complex than the media, the progressives, the conservatives, and the governments portray. So why not be skeptical?