Friday, 27 December 2013


I have always been a pessimistic person, I find it odd to be overly optimistic all the time. Being pessimistic grants you the solace of knowing if things do not turn out so well, at least you have expected it.

In the Economist last week, there was an article on why the French are so miserable and pessimistic. Polls suggested that they are more depressed than Ugandans or Uzbekistanis, and more pessimistic about their country’s future than Albanians or Iraqis.

Does it have to with the language? Does speaking French make you more miserable than speaking other languages? No, as French enclaves in Belgium and Canada seem to be feeling better.

Claudia Senik, a French economist at the Paris School of Economics said it has to do with something about being French, down to its culture and history. From 1789 to 1814, the country overthrew a monarchy, endured the Terror, and lost an empire.

Years of indulging in pessimism and sadness have produced scores of literatures that have great impact on the people. Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables said “melancholy, is the happiness of being sad”. Another writer, Baudelaire penned “I do not pretend that joy cannot be allied with beauty. 

There are great many philosophers that came from France, and in philosophy the most important thing is to doubt. And I do believe as you delve deeper into philosophy, there is no other way but to be more rational and pessimistic. Monique Canto-Sperber, a philosopher and director of Paris Sciences et Lettres said  “The rationalist tradition makes us sceptical; we exist through criticism,” and added “We treat those too full of hope as naive.” Voltaire further emphasised the matter and wrote “optimism, is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.”

Hmmm France, what an interesting nation.

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