Voltaire’s Candide, Dr Pangloss famously teaches that everything is for
the best and that man lives in the ‘best of all possible worlds’. For
Voltaire, this view of the world was clearly nonsensical. Yet, is it not
always better to believe that the glass is half full rather than half
Our new PM is clearly a student of Dr Pangloss. Boris exudes optimism. He has no time for ‘gloomsters’ and dismisses the sceptics and cynics with a wave of his arm. If willing the end really does make something happen, then everything will indeed be fine.
entering Number 10, Boris has deliberately set about erasing the dark
and dreary Theresa May years from the public consciousness. In its place
is a new belief that the country’s best days are still to come and that
Boris is the person to ensure that they happen.
Clever stuff and there are already signs that the public are responding positively. Opinion polls show a clear ‘Boris bounce’ and there appears to be a new optimism and confidence that Brexit will indeed happen on Halloween (how delicious!) and life will be wonderful for evermore. Of course, the real objective is to win an early general election and transform Britain in Boris’s image.
The ‘gloomsters’ dismiss Boris as nothing more than bluster and hyperbole. But are they right?
modern times, the greatest political communicator was a former B Movie
actor who became President of the USA when national self-esteem was at
rock bottom after the dreary Jimmy Carter years. Ronald Reagan’s
political credo was optimism and self belief. A politician who even his
greatest opponents found impossible to dislike, Reagan used smiles, a
self-mocking humour and a glass half-full philosophy to transform
America. Another student perhaps of Dr Pangloss ...
So in politics, an optimistic world view combined with personality and humour is a very powerful weapon with which to beat up opponents. This is particularly true in Britain after ten years of austerity when the public mood is gloomy and pessimistic.
surely follows then that a Panglossian view of the world is relevant in
every aspect of life. Just think for a moment about best friends and,
in business, best clients. Are they not always people who are optimistic
and fun? Who wants to spend time with gloomsters? Not me ...
None of this means that there aren’t times when it is important and necessary to be serious and even glum. There was a very strong political, economic and moral case in 2010 for a government which preached and delivered austerity. Britain was living beyond its means. The public finances were bust. There was a similar need when Thatcher was elected in 1979. But austerity in itself isn’t enough. It must lead to something better. There has to be light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Is Boris that light?
The next few months will be a severe test of whether or not Voltaire was right to satirise an optimistic view of the world. In Boris and Jezza, we have a modern example of Dr Pangloss and his nemesis. I suspect I know which philosophy will triumph. Who doesn’t want to drink from a glass that is half full?
Written by Peter Bingle, founder of agency Terrapin Communications
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