Noel Coward - Adam Curtis TV - Laurie Lee - Edmond Rostand - John Kenneth Galbraith - Idries Shah - Mark Twain - Leonard Cohen - George Bernard Shaw - Spiro T Agnew - Benjamin Franklin King - Oscar Wilde - Voltaire - Sherrilyn Kenyon - Arthur Shopenhauer - John Kenneth Galbraith - Anthony Burgess - Nero Wolfe - Mark Steel - Waldemar Januszczak TV -
… There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won’t roll by … Noel Coward, There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner, 1953 song
... There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be;
There are black birds over
The greyish cliffs of Dover,
And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC ...
We’re an unhappy breed
And very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said
While the press and the politicians nag nag nag
We’ll wait until we drop down dead … ibid.
... There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair,
It’s as clear as crystal
From Bridlington to Bristol
That we can’t save democracy and we don’t much care ... ibid.
Freud was not alone in his pessimism. Politicians like Adolf Hitler emerged from a growing despair in the 1920s about democracy. The Nazis were convinced that democracy was dangerous because it unleashed a selfish individualism, but didn’t have the means to control it. Hitler’s party, the National Socialists, stood in elections promising in their propaganda that they would abandon democracy because of the chaos and unemployment it led to. Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, BBC 2002
And in America all optimistic visions of the future had also disappeared … and everyone became possessed by dark forebodings, imagining the very worst might happen. Adam Curtis, Hypernormalisation, BBC 2016
Pessimism finally took hold … Those who had wanted to change the world now began to turn inwards. This distrust was going to be reinforced by the growing influence of the psychologists who said that human beings were really irrational and lived in a dream world. Out of that was going to come the modern system of power in which Psychology would join with Economics and with Finance to make sure that that dream world was managed. Adam Curtis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head II: Shooting and Fucking are the Same Thing, BBCiplayer 2021
The prospect Smiler was a manic farmer. Few men I think can have been as unfortunate as he; for on the one hand he was a melancholic with a loathing for mankind, on the other, some paralysis had twisted his mouth into a permanent and radiant smile. So everyone he met, being warmed by his smile, would shout him a happy greeting. And beaming upon them with his sunny face he would curse them all to hell. Laurie Lee, Cider with Rosie
My pessimism goes to the point of suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists. Edmond Rostand
We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect. John Kenneth Galbraith
Sometimes a pessimist is only an optimist with extra information. Idries Shah, Reflections
There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist. Mark Twain
I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin. Leonard Cohen, Observer 2nd May 1993
Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself, and hates them for it. George Bernard Shaw, An Unsocial Socialist
In the United States today we have more than our fair share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. Spiro T Agnew, American Republican politician
Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes
To keep one from going nude.
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back. Benjamin Franklin King, The Pessimist
‘I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.’
‘It never is, sir.’
‘Lane, you're a perfect pessimist.’
‘I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.’ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both. Oscar Wilde
‘What a pessimist you are!’ exclaimed Candide.
‘That is because I know what life is,’ said Martin. Voltaire, Candide
I’m beginning to think the only choice anyone has in life is between either a bad choice or a worse one. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Infamous
The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey. Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Suffering of the World
There is not much to be got anywhere in the world. It is filled with misery and pain; if a man escapes these, boredom lies in wait for him at every corner. Nay more; it is evil which generally has the upper hand, and folly that makes the most noise. Fate is cruel and mankind pitiable. Arthur Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life
If you expect the worst from a person, you can’t ever be disappointed. Only the disappointed resort to violence. The pessimist, which is another way of saying the Augustinian, takes a sort of gloomy pleasure in observing the depths to which human behaviour can sink. The more sin he sees, the more his belief in Original Sin is confirmed. Everyone likes to have his deepest convictions confirmed; that is one of the most abiding of human satisfactions. Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed, 1962
This is a pleasant surprise, Archie. I would not have believed it. That of course is the advantage of being a pessimist; a pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant. Nero Wolfe, Fer-de-Lance, 1934
Blair and New Labour thrive on pessimism … The antidote to pessimism is the understanding that we do make a difference. Blair didn’t scrap the Poll Tax – we did. New Labour didn’t end apartheid – we did. What keeps campaigners going is not a naïve faith that one sugary day we can make the world a better place, but the knowledge that defying authority already makes the world a better place. Mark Steel, Reasons to be Cheerful
When it comes to pessimism even Leonardo has some way to go to match the despair of Hieronymus Bosch. Waldemar Januszczak, The Renaissance Unchained IV: Hell, Snakes and Giants, BBC 2017
His most famous picture The Garden of Earthly Delights in the Prado, that extraordinary theme-park of sin, is a triptych packed with so much bad news that I can’t deal with it all once. ibid.
In the marvellous Renaissance action art of Bernard Palissy, something new appeared in the world – ceramics that pack a punch. And the pessimism of the Renaissance found one of its most inventive outlets. ibid.