Saturday, 15 February 2014

It's time for a miserablist uprising

I've been thinking about obituaries recently.  Partially because they say you should visualise what you want in life, so I like to set aside a little time now and then to imagine the sentence "Littlejohn succumbed to his horrific injuries a week after being savagely mauled by rabid bears" being committed to print; partially because I've noticed something interesting about the language used in them.  How many obituaries have you read that contain a re-hash of the same sentiment over and over - "s/he was always smiling", "always happy", "really positive", "never had a bad word to say about anyone", etc?  The same with tabloid reporting of deaths in general - the third highest level of tragedy after the death of a "model" (in Daily Mail speak, any thin-lipped teenager who's ever paid a registered sex offender for taking some ropey glamour shots) and anyone who can conceivably be described in the headline as "beautiful", is reserved for those who were "happy" or worse "bubbly".

The perpetually cheerful aren't lionised only in death though - seemingly they're favoured in life too, particularly in the workplace.  Whilst the closest I've ever come to bonding with my colleagues is the time an old boss described me as "an acquired taste, personality wise", my perkiest workmates, the kind who are nothing short of mind-bendingly chirpy at 9am on a Monday when everyone else is still nursing the remains of Sunday's hangover, are the ones who get the birthday cakes and the flowers and the impassioned speeches in front of tear-stained faces when they leave.  Not that I'm particularly fussed one of my colleagues was once so desperate to avoid me that I watched him walk into a wall trying to dodge my desk, but did you know the less cheerful among us are regularly passed over for promotion too?  If you read chirpiness as extroversion, and a healthily gloomy outlook as introversion, which I think rings pretty true, then superficially happy people do better in their careers.  In "Quiet", by Susan Cain, we learn that Havard and Yale Business Schools view introversion as a weakness that has no place in the business world, and that a lot of high profile companies won't hire anyone they suspect of secret introversion.  After all, what is "team player" if not corporate code for "smug, ingratiating bastard"?  I'm temping in an office that's recruiting at the moment, and part of my so-far scintillating time there has involved sorting the CVs into yes and no piles, and one poor soul was rejected after interview on grounds that it was thought they wouldn't be "sociable" enough.  

Well, I say it is time to bring an end to the cruel persecution of pessimists.  As Cain points out in Quiet, the world be a waking nightmare if populated exclusively by extroverts.  Introverts are the yin to the extroverts' yang, and so behind every perpetual optimist is a pessimist yanking them back every time they bound gaily into the path of an oncoming lorry (it is a well known fact that optimists suck at the Green Cross Code).  It is time we miserablists had our important contribution to the world recognised.  Why should we value those count "grinning inanely at nothing" among their principle hobbies over others?  In truth, miserablists have friends and acquaintances just like anyone else, so the idea that it is more enjoyable to spend time with people who are "always smiling and positive" is baseless.  I dream of the day when the next door neighbour of a murder victim is quoted saying "It's such a shame.  She was always frowning".  My fondest hope is my friends will remember me kindly for teaching them to expect the worst, and thus avoid a great deal of disappointment in life.

Miserablists of the world, unite, and take over.

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