November 14, 2011

The Pull of Misanthropy

Do you ever feel like you are teetering on the edge, tempted to give into frustration and just quit? Maybe it is when you are given the illusory choice between voting for the conservative candidate who is bought and paid for by corporate interests or for the slightly less conservative candidate who is also thoroughly beholden to corporate interests. Or maybe it is when you realize that the majority of your neighbors still believe in angels or that evolution remains "controversial" among many of those with power over how your child is educated.

I often find myself torn between optimism and hope on one side and pessimism and misanthropy on the other. To be sure, there are many small things that make me feel hopeful (e.g., atheists beginning to speak out, increases in political activism and reminders about what such activism can accomplish). But there is always a pull toward misanthropy as I am constantly reminded of the hatred and bigotry with which many of my fellow humans treat one another. Lately, I'm experiencing this pull in a very strong way.

I suppose part of my problem is one of impatience. I've never been a particularly patient person. When it comes to bigotry and discrimination, baby steps in the right direction just don't seem sufficient. I want real progress now, and I want to see the sort of change that isn't easily reversed. It is tough for me to remember that changes achieved today are vital in paving the way for those that will happen tomorrow.

I know what the atheist movement is up against, and I know that the sort of change we need takes decades. I also feel like our progress has accelerated during the last 10 years or so. But lately, I'm finding that I have to remind myself of that far too often.