July 13th, 2006

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Interesting link; political language....

The "Introduction to Straight Talk 2006" -- at http://straighttalk.ourfuture.org/introduction.html, in a section titled "Towards a Politics of the Common Good" -- says "Progressives need to put forth a bold vision for the Common Good and reassert the need for us to come together to meet the challenges we face. But a common good strategy cannot simply be a rhetorical posture -- it must be grounded in bold alternatives to our current policies."

Can't disagree with any of that... I just wish that the third paragraph of the introduction didn't start by saying that "Straight Talk is designed to serve up ammunition for that challenge." [The challenge of moving the U.S. in a very different direction from the one it's moving in now.] I haven't had time to read much of Straight Talk yet; perhaps this sentence is not an indication that Combat is the operative metaphor.

The "Welcome" at the homepage starts like this:

"Straight Talk is designed to serve up ammunition to progressives who have the opportunity to challenge the grip that the right has had on our imaginations and our policies over the past quarter century. It provides activists and candidates the basics on how to argue our case. It focuses on kitchen table concerns—bread and butter issues—and the issue that drives American opinion—Iraq and the war on terrorism. We take this focus because we believe that no enduring progressive majority can be forged without a compelling argument on how to make this economy work for working people—and a clear answer to what a real security agenda is for America in the wake of September 11."

Metaphor muddle. Cooks and waitresses and blacksmiths -- and there's that "ammunition" again. But I'm interested enough to read more.
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Emotional weather; brief quotes...

From "Pollyanna may have been right after all," on page 138 of Contemporary OB/GYN for February 2001...

"...[I]nvestigators had 839 patients complete the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory in the early 1960s, using portions of the test results to identify optimistic personalities -- those who explained the adverse events in their lives as temporary, controllable, isolated setbacks -- and those with pessimistic personalities... Thirty years later, pessimistic patients, who had scores of more than 60 on the Optimism-Pessimism Scale, were almost 40% more likely to have died than those with optimistic scores of less than 40."

And...

"Similarly, researchers have found that pessimism seems to amplify a human's sense of helplessness..."


Original sources cited:

Maruta T., Colligan RC, Malinchoc M, et al. "Optimist vs. pessimist: survival rate among medical patients over a 30-year period." In Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2000;75:140-143.

Seligman ME. "Optimism, pessimism, and mortality." In Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2000;75:133-134.
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Emotional weather; hopefulness/hopelessness, optimism/pessimism...

hilleviw commented, in response to "optimistic personalities -- those who explained the adverse events in their lives as temporary, controllable, isolated setbacks":

"To me that's just a really interesting definition of optimistic. I'm actually inclined to agree, but I've always thought optimism and pessimism were descriptions of personalities, not circumstances: of how one responds rather than what one responds to. I'm balking a little at the notion that 'temporary, controllable, isolated' are interpreted rather than inherent qualities of setbacks."


I think the problem here is that the quotes I posted were out of context and were so brief; it's hard, with only that much information available, to keep all the interrelated issues straight and even harder to give them clarity. I should have resisted the temptation to post them. It's a very difficult topic to write about.

What we do know for certain -- and have known since at least the 1960s -- is that the longterm (and in some cases the shortterm) effects of stressful events on the human body/mind/spirit are often not the consequence of the events themselves but of the way the individual human being perceives those events. Because optimists react to even acute pain with an expectation that that pain will end and that there will be times free of pain ahead, the pain does not damage them as severely -- physically, neurologically, and spiritually -- as it damages individuals who react to pain with a strong suspicion that it will never end, and a conviction that even if it does end it will only be followed by yet more pain.

That is: Of course the deep gash in someone's arm from an encounter with a defective power saw or a vicious assault is the direct consequence of that accident or assault. But whether the injured person suffers intractable depression after the experience, whether the injured person becomes phobic for power tools or dark streets, whether the injured person begins grimly anticipating another injury or assault .... those sorts of effects .... are the result not of the experience but of the way the experience is perceived.

This is good news, because while it's impossible to alter events, it's not impossible to alter perceptions.