Why Are You So Negative? (and Other FAQs)

FAQ: Why are you attacking me for my way of life?

MZ: That’s easy. Our way of life is really a “way of death” and is directly responsible for the current global crises I write about. We also might want to agree to save the word “attack” for, say, those living under the US taxpayer-funded predator drones, cruise missiles, and depleted uranium shells. Let’s save it for countless victims of child abuse. Let’s save “attack” to describe the reality of one rape every 46 seconds in America. Okay?

FAQ: Why don’t you offer any step-by-step solutions?

MZ: Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her opinion is worthless. This remarkably unsophisticated reaction misses the essential role critical analysis plays in a society where problems—and their causes—are so cleverly disguised. When discussing the future, the first step is often an identification and demystification of the past and present.

Besides, what value would my “solutions” hold while we are still in the midst of myriad global crises? I like to imagine that if we began detaching ourselves from a system designed to destroy us (and all life) and began dismantling that system, we’d create a space in which we could recognize paths and options currently invisible to us.

FAQ: Why do you always focus on the negative?

MZ: Becoming an activist can be an incredibly positive experience: creating community, inspiring change, feeling empowered. While most humans choose instead to use their meager time chasing money, collecting possessions, and obsessing over pop culture, the activist sees a bigger picture, a longer view, a deeper connection. However, being an effective activist also requires us to tear off the blinders and become acutely aware of how our way of life has devastated the planet.

More importantly, what does the term “negative” mean in this context anyway?

If you went to a doctor, would you deem him/her negative for talking about how high your cholesterol levels are instead of, say, focusing on your excellent fingernail health? If you brought your car in for a tune-up, do you want the mechanic to compliment you for keeping your tire pressure at the right level but stay away from a negative topic like defective brakes? Of course not…

Why, then, do so many humans shut down when confronted with the realities of our current social, economic, and environmental crises? Why is analysis that presents a dose of reality smugly dismissed as “negative”? Don’t you want to know what’s going on and how you can help address it beyond minor lifestyle changes and the petty conflicts of party politics? Why not save your knee-jerk “negative” retort for those who directly or indirectly support the corporate-sponsored rape of our planet?

News Flash: It’s not “negativity” that’s the issue here, folks. It’s denial.

Antonio Gramsci wrote, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” I can think of no better mantra for activism. Don’t shy away from learning the ugly realities of industrial civilization but never let these brutal truths prevent you from taking urgent action and believing you can create change and save lives—human and non-human lives. It’s a delicate balance, but our ability to walk this fine line could literally make all the difference in the world. We need a planet brimming with pessimistic optimists

FAQ: Why aren’t you marching in lockstep with me? You suck.

MZ: Of course, no one phrases this question quite so bluntly but it’s astonishing to me how often a fellow human can be virtually in synch with my perception/lifestyle/worldview but choose instead to angrily dwell upon the issues on which we differ. Purity is not a realistic or productive goal.

FAQ: Since you seem to think you have all the answers, exactly what should we do?

MZ: This is the most disingenuous FAQ of all. You know exactly what needs to be done. If you walked into a room and saw a man attacking someone you loved, would you ask an obscure writer like me what you should do? Would you write a letter to Congress, sign a petition, hold a candlelight vigil, vote for a Democrat… or would beat the attacker’s ass from one end of the room to the other?

And for the record, I definitely do not think I have all the answers, but I sometimes feel I have more questions than most.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Read other articles by Mickey.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 27th, 2011 at 9:30am #

    mickey Z:
    “MZ: Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her opinion is worthless.”

    with respect, aren’t u self implying that too many people elicit conclusion that a piece is worthless if it dose not include a proposal for what to do?

    the word “worthless” self represents an extremity; beyond which one cannot transcend.
    it tends to close off further thought; causes tensions, anger, etc.

    in this connection, let’s take hedges or chomsky? they go on and on telling us what they r against, but never ever what they r four.
    still, this cannot be evaluated as nor is this worthless.
    such behavior can deceive and often deceives, tho.

    so, in my opinion, a writer ought say what s/he.’s four also. tnx

  2. bozh said on January 27th, 2011 at 9:42am #

    mickey Z:
    “FAQ: Since you seem to think you have all the answers, exactly what should we do?”.

    yes, i am often accused of knowing everything. my answers r usually or always ignored.
    most of the time our facts r also ignored, or usuallly slyly marginalized as mine only; ergo, must be wrong or hope that others wld think that way.

    and since my style of writing is ‘primitive’ to them, this too is used to as proof that OUR facts r lies! tnx

  3. HoboCynic said on January 27th, 2011 at 9:45am #

    Great article. This expresses what many of us feel about discussions with our interlocutors on these topics, but which we rarely have the courage or opportunity to share.

    It can be tiresome to resist popular delusions, for precisely the reasons named above, but for honest folk there is no other option.

    -HoboCynic
    hobocynic.blogspot.com

  4. Deadbeat said on January 27th, 2011 at 2:37pm #

    How’s that for irony. Just yesterday Don Hawkings writes …

    Don Hawkins said on January 26th, 2011 at 5:55pm #
    So DB how do we change this sorry state of affairs.

    My response (with corrections) …

    Deadbeat said on January 26th, 2011 at 6:37pm #
    Resistance and revolution. This means firmly understanding the current social, political and economic dynamic. It means knowing who your enemies are and who your allies are. In order to do this it means having a firm ideology to operate from. I choose a Socialist ideology because we’ve tried Keynesianism and it has failed. Calls for reforming Capitalism won’t work. Only the eradication of Capitalism and all form of racism are needed to build solidarity. It appears what is holding us back is the form of racism that the Left won’t (and cannot due to its corruption) address — Zionism.

    This in order to effect change it means having an ideology — a set of immutable principles — necessary to build solidarity with your allies. Only through trust will the people have the POWER to challenge the ruling class. Without that all is lost.

    Clearly your enemies will do everything they can to disrupt solidarity which is why the pseudo-Left IMO is more dangerous than the Right. This is why it was so easy for the pseudo-Left to thwart Nader’s attempts in 2004 from building a progressive 3rd party.

    By no means is this going to be easy but calling for a “courageous leader” is pure fantasy.

    Now we have “venerable” pseudo-Leftist Mickey Z who when challenges to offer his thoughts of a solution come with this typical Chomskyite response …

    FAQ: Why don’t you offer any step-by-step solutions?

    MZ: Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her opinion is worthless. This remarkably unsophisticated reaction misses the essential role critical analysis plays in a society where problems—and their causes—are so cleverly disguised. When discussing the future, the first step is often an identification and demystification of the past and present.

    Besides, what value would my “solutions” hold while we are still in the midst of myriad global crises? I like to imagine that if we began detaching ourselves from a system designed to destroy us (and all life) and began dismantling that system, we’d create a space in which we could recognize paths and options currently invisible to us.

    Zed’s first problem is that as a member of the pseudo-Left he is no position to “identify and demystify” issues past or present since he is part of the demystification mechanism. For example Socialist solutions have been around for more than a century yet Mickey doesn’t seek to suggest such solutions. Neither Marx or Capitalism are mentioned anywhere in Zed’s article. Marx just happened to offer the world insights into Capitalist crises one of which we are now experiencing. Apparently Zed finds no value in looking back at history in order to demystify the present.

    There are a couple of movements going on today to educate people about how a society might function without money such as the World Socialist Movement and Zeitgeist. Such radical ideas are vital in order not to be stuck within the confines of Capitalist reforms.

    But like Mickey Z many of these movements fail to confront Zionism (although that may be changing). Why is that important. While Capitalism functions for profit and the accumulation of money, the motivating force behind Zionism is RACISM. You CANNOT reform racism because its desire and drive for SUPERIORITY and INEQUALITY cannot be curbed or mediated. The Palestinian Papers once again proves that. This is an ideology that must be ERADICATED along with Capitalism.

    Thus it is important to express “solutions” even bad “solutions” because the expression reveals where the person is coming from — their ideology. It helps stimulate discussion and debate and the possibility of testing ideas. The question raised from this process is “is there solidarity?”. As I stated without solidarity all is lost.

    Unfortunately, Mickey’s lack of desire to offer his perceptions of a society BEYOND Capitalism and Racism leaves people confused which is why they repeatedly ask the question.

    But on the other hand there is a huge demand today for pseudo-Leftists especially as the economy unwinds and people become more agitated. This is a growing field and a job category of the immediate future. All you have to do is write well and spin tales that misdirect and keep people off balanced. To all students I’d recommend a good creative writing class and spending hours reading and listening to Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and not to omit Mickey Z himself. It’ll help his book sales.

  5. Don Hawkins said on January 27th, 2011 at 3:05pm #

    And very sure along with Capitalism exiting stage right everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler. So far it appears everything is made as complex as possible an illusion know your Wizards but not simpler. Capitalism or the means of production must change and Clearly the wizards will do everything they can to disrupt any change seems clear so far. Strange game no survives. Yes the game has been played for thousands of years is this time different, yes. Tax carbon; everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.

  6. Deadbeat said on January 27th, 2011 at 3:22pm #

    Don Hawkins writes …

    Tax carbon; everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.

    Forget it Don. The tax system is over. We’ve tried redistribution of money and “punishing” people and corporations via the tax system. It doesn’t work. These are Keynesian “fixes” to the Capitalist system and after 80 years of Keynesianism take a look at where we are.

    It’s time ideas, advocacy, and demands go to the next level especially if the planet is as imperiled as your advocacy proclaims.

  7. Don Hawkins said on January 27th, 2011 at 3:55pm #

    As my advocacy proclaims am just relentless like you and the dot’s are becoming very easy to connect granted I have eye’s and ear’s and with these special glasses I found in a dumpster a few years ago help’s a lot to see clearly the memes. Used to give me headaches not anymore somewhat amazing to see the World as it really is.

    Use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack and in 2011 much defense is needed. I guess just stay silent and look the other way.

    Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.

    Always in motion is the future.

  8. bozh said on January 27th, 2011 at 4:23pm #

    whatever onepercenters do, i do not expect, they wld not allow anything be done that wld weaken their econo-military-diplomatic powers.
    and even if they expect that the warming in next two decades might fry 6 bn people.
    in fact, if that’s what they expect, they’l actually deliberately increase polution and global warming.

    it is the people of afrika, parts of asia, parts of u.s., s.america which wld perish first of all.
    as i have said before, most people underestimate enormity of wickedness we face.

    some r still stuck on ‘jews’ only, or capitalism only; i am stuck on the enormous danger from the plutocrats only! tnx

  9. bozh said on January 27th, 2011 at 4:30pm #

    hey, don,
    try not! and u said [imparted meaning] that in less than 5 wrds.
    “Do or do not, there is no try”. and that meaning sent in ten words or less!
    einstein wld have been impressed! tnx

  10. Deadbeat said on January 27th, 2011 at 4:46pm #

    bozh writes (yet another contradiction) …

    some r still stuck on ‘jews’ only, or capitalism only; i am stuck on the enormous danger from the plutocrats only! tnx

    Who do you think the “plutocrats” are?

  11. hayate said on January 27th, 2011 at 7:41pm #

    It’s a difficult path to walk to maintain that status quo. On one side, there is positive change. On the other, negative change. One slip in either direction and your comfort is threatened…

  12. kanomi said on January 28th, 2011 at 11:50am #

    A good article.

    Regarding, “FAQ: Why don’t you offer any step-by-step solutions?
    MZ: Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her opinion is worthless.”

    This is true, and one I encounter a lot (and not always maliciously).
    I think it’s a subtle variation of a circumstantial ad hominem:

    Mickey Z. claims Problem X is terrible.
    Mickey Z. provides no solution for Problem X.
    Therefore, Mickey Z.’s claims are false.

    Obviously nonsense. One decent metaphor you can use against this is the example of the movie critic: Roger Ebert claims Showgirls is a bad movie, and lays out the reasons why. Is Ebert’s proof that this movie is terrible invalidated by his inability to make his own movie?

    Of course not.

  13. kalidasa said on January 28th, 2011 at 3:17pm #

    I’m even dumber than you know who.
    I always thought CO2 was literally the staff of life.

  14. hayate said on January 29th, 2011 at 11:34am #

    kanomi said on January 28th, 2011 at 11:50am

    “Obviously nonsense. One decent metaphor you can use against this is the example of the movie critic: Roger Ebert claims Showgirls is a bad movie, and lays out the reasons why. Is Ebert’s proof that this movie is terrible invalidated by his inability to make his own movie?”

    Or act or write a script or direct a film or any of the other talents needed that go into making a quality film. Yes. Definitely. I’ve found critics to be mostly bitter failures of the art they criticise. Most are useless over inflated egos with their heads perennially situated where the moon don’t shine.

  15. Deadbeat said on January 29th, 2011 at 2:16pm #

    Addressing kanomi’s flawed argument and I agree with hayate’s remark on critics, however when Ebert critiques a film he provide a step-by-step list of what he considers to be flaws in order to draw his conclusion. He does many times include suggestion of how the movie might have been better and what could have been done in order to improve the film.

    What Mickey Z is doing is being a stenographer of the socially systemic problems and offers NO analysis of the underlying causes and how the society could be remedies of these systemic problem. This is typical operating procedure of the pseudo-Left that actually complements the MSM.

    Because the MSM is so reactionary it creates a vacuum whereby people like Chomsky, Zinn, Mickey Z, Amy Goodman can offer a Left-of-MSM critique. Because people are unaccustomed of hearing such critiques they tune in. But the critiques are designed stop short of any real solutions, short of getting to the root of the matter, short of radical analysis.

    Because there is such a vacuum of perspective people believe the aforementioned are “radical” when in fact they are quite mainstream themselves. Their where a facade as critics of system while benefiting from very system they criticize. That’s the joke and the reason why Mickey Z, Chomsky, Goodman cannot and WILL NOT offer any solution because it means being confronting Capitalism and Zionism. Capitalism happens to pay them at the same time they have emotional ties (at the very least) to Zionism.