Off the top of my head I have a hard time thinking of anything sleazier than smearing peace talks in order to gain partisan political points, but that has indeed been the theme of the last few days when it comes to the Singapore summit. Liberal pundits everywhere have been busily circulating the narrative that Kim Jong-Un “played” Trump by getting him to temporarily halt military drills in exchange for suspended nuclear testing. It was the most fundamental beginning of peace negotiations and a slight deescalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but the way they talk about it you’d think Kim had taken off from Singapore in Air Force One with the keys to Fort Knox and Melania on his lap.

I’m not sure how far up the military-industrial complex’s ass one’s head needs to be to think that one single step toward peace is a gigantic take-all-the-chips win for the impoverished North Korea, but many of Trump’s political enemies are taking it even further.

Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to make it more difficult for Trump to withdraw US troops from South Korea, because while you can always count on Capitol Hill to make it incredibly easy for a president to deploy military personnel around the globe, giving that same office the power to bring troops home is a completely different matter.

Surprising no one, MSNBC’s cartoon children’s program The Rachel Maddow Show took home the trophy for jaw-dropping, shark-jumping ridiculousness with an eighteen-minute Alex Jones impression claiming that the chief architect of the Korean negotiations was none other than (and if you can’t guess whose name I’m going to write once we get out of these parentheses I deeply envy your ignorance on this matter) Vladimir Putin.

Saner voices have been pushing back against this madness, none in my opinion more lucidly than South Korea-born peace activist Christine Ahn in an interview with Sarah Lazare for In These Times, who discussed how “Trump’s proven willingness to turn on a dime and engage in dangerous brinkmanship with North Korea” makes it “especially reckless for self-professed liberals to pressure the president to be more confrontational.”

“It is very dangerous to pressure Trump to be hardline,” Ahn said. “We have to put all of our efforts into ensuring this goes well and is not undermined. Look who’s in Trump’s cabinet: John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and tomorrow is the confirmation meeting for Harry Harris, the former head of Pacific Command—a military man with a hardline position against China and North Korea, now likely the new ambassador to South Korea. If things don’t go well, we are in an incredibly dangerous situation.”

Ahn makes the case that people who most distrust Trump should be the most eager to see him strike a peace deal, and of course they should. This president is facilitating acts of military violence and dangerous escalations around the world; anyone who isn’t relieved by the possibility of one powder keg being defused in that rampage actually has a lot more faith in Trump’s competence than they’re pretending to.

Less dangerous than the appeals to Trump’s massive ego that he should be more tough and warlike are the constant appeals to pessimism I’m seeing from smug, world-weary commentators, which in my opinion are still pernicious in their own way.

Pessimism is a hell of a drug. Since most humans are deeply conditioned organisms and thus generally predictable, any bet against their ability to break out of their old habitual patterns is generally a safe one. Political analysts who do this are rewarded with both a reputation for making accurate predictions (which they will never fail to remind everyone of and crow about) and the hit to their brain’s reward center that they get from being right. If you enjoy being proven right and feeling smug about it, pessimism is the drug for you.

The Korean Peninsula’s peace negotiations are replete with opportunities to make pessimistic predictions; about Trump messing it all up, about agreements falling through, about settling back into the same old patterns which have been diminishing the quality of tens of millions of lives on both sides of the demilitarized zone. It is easy to make such predictions about the plight of the Korean people and about the plight of our species in general. But it is optimism which will actually bring us out of those old patterns.

Indeed, that’s all optimism really is when you come right down to it: a faith in the human ability to pull out of unwholesome patterns. Whether you’re discussing the possibility of an individual maintaining sobriety, the possibility of two nations putting aside generations-old hostilities and moving into a new relationship, or the possibility of our species pulling out of its omnicidal, ecocidal trajectory toward extinction and turning its intellectual and creative powers toward creating a collaborative relationship with one another and with the environment instead, you are talking about humans breaking old patterns.

The revolution that we are fighting is being fought first and foremost not by the politicians, not by the activists, not by the journalists, but by the healers. The people who have committed to doing their own inner heavy lifting and uprooting their old, unhelpful conditioning patterns so that they can move through the world consciously and efficaciously instead of reacting unconsciously through the perceptual filters and mental habits born of childhood traumas and confused coping mechanisms. These are the people who are on the front lines of the battle to draw humanity out of its old unwholesome societal patterns born of countless generations of war, slavery, exploitation and degradation and into its new potentiality.

And they are all optimists. Nobody ever rose above themselves by the firm belief that they couldn’t, and no societal evolution ever took place because its leaders believed it wasn’t possible.

When you’re talking about things that people don’t have much control over, like the weather, it doesn’t matter much if you’re a pessimist or an optimist; it’s going to rain when it’s going to rain whether you think it will or not. But when you are talking about the ability to transcend old patterns, self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play. The belief that your individual conditioning patterns are unchangeable guarantees that they will remain as they are. Promulgating cynicism and pessimism makes humanity that much more locked into its old patterns.

Luckily, the opposite is also true. A confidence that you are not defined by your mental habits nor are you doomed to repeat them gives you the ability to heal and rise above them. Promulgating optimism and the belief that humanity can win this thing makes us that much more likely to.

And it is already happening. A US president meeting with the North Korean leader was until recently unthinkable. The anointed queen Hillary Clinton failed to be installed into office. The old mass media monopoly on information and dominant narratives is eroding more and more every day. Day by day we’re seeing gaps in the old patterns and becoming a little more prone to expecting the unexpected.

The movement into the light of consciousness is a movement out of our old, deeply conditioned patterns. This means that the more we move away from our trajectory of death and destruction, the more wildly unexpected occurrences will start popping up. The gaps between the bars of our cages will emerge from way out of left field, because they will not arise from the old repetitive cycles which brought us here. The pessimists won’t see it coming. The optimists won’t either, but we’ll be delighted when it arrives.

Pessimists get to be right most of the time, and that is very nice for them. But it’s optimists who are pointed in the direction of light and life. It’s optimists who will save the world. Be an optimist.


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Latest comments

  • Little history and update from Christine Ahn at TRNN https://youtu.be/TrHHA97jd-c

  • I’m sure China and Russia would love a diminishment of US power in the region. If Korea begins the move toward more one nation who’s long term sphere of influence will it lie in? With the one belt one road policy the whole AsianEuropean land mass with it’s millions of consumers and producers will be connected.

    I think a peaceful unification would be a great thing but it is possible that Trump is more the pawn than the queen

  • On just the Korea issue Trump and Kim did all right.
    Now Kim and Trump have no reason to threaten each other.
    The Koreans can work it out among themselves – the US should butt out.

  • Re: Caroline Myss’ quotation: In a beginning, God created all: a perfect and divine system of infinite order with complete purity of purpose, not chaos. Chaos came later, after a maniacal betrayal of what was entrusted. To equate God, who is (and has only ever been) good with the oppressive destructiveness of a constantly expanding disorder (darkness) is to consciously blaspheme what was written, thus casting aside The Word.

  • “A US president meeting with the North Korean leader was until recently unthinkable.’

    This has nothing to do with “optimism” I see it rather as your naivety. Honestly I am surprised that you have any, any expectation from imbecile such is Trump.

    ““The present, while never repeating the past exactly, must inevitably resemble it. Hence, so must the future.” Thucydides

    I do not know whether you are religious or not but that quote is ridiculous.

    • you’re an absolute imbecile and the reason shitheads are in government!

  • BAM!! Thank you, Caitlin!

    For so very well seeing and saying…

  • optimist? or pessimist?
    eventually, society figured out
    that human sacrifice was wrong
    so we stopped doing that

    eventually, society figured out
    that slavery was wrong
    so we (most of us) stopped doing that

    eventually, we in the U.S. figured out
    that lynching black folk in the south was wrong
    so we stopped doing that

    it seems that
    the concepts of truth, goodness and justice
    moves slowly through time among us humans
    but I can’t deny
    that progress has been made

    I guess I’m just impatient to see the
    truth, goodness and justice work more quickly

    it’s like being on the Titanic
    and not knowing if an iceberg up ahead
    will be nuclear war, over-population
    economic collapse, a big asteroid
    our moon departing orbit, our sun becoming a red dwarf
    or quantum entanglement with some other dimension
    AND not knowing if the captain and crew
    of our global decision makers
    will figure out NEW ways to keep our boat afloat

    but I have to admit that
    life on planet earth (at the very least)
    is interesting, terrifying, beautiful . . .
    and mostly, downright baffling !!

    so I say: optimist? No – pessimist? No
    and why?
    ”The future’s not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera)”

  • ” I have a hard time thinking of anything sleazier than smearing peace talks in order to gain partisan political points”

    How about separating immigrant children from their parents to score political points?

  • Blessings to you for writing this marvelously upbeat piece! Just reading how well you describe the situation absolutely made my day! I am so happy that you are the creative and logical person you are, you are the best! Thanks again, I too, am optimistic!

  • I love all the flavors of articles you write, but this one, I have to leave a comment. It’s truly the most moving piece I’ve read from you, and I am quoting and sharing sections. Yes, yes, yes! What I’ve been sensing is put to beautiful words. Onward and upward with the healing.

  • Every gambler who ever graced the cathedrals of Los Vegas was an optimist. Then again anyone who expects to die a natural death with these war mongering crooks in charge qualifies as an optimists.

  • Trump insists that the nuclear threat from North Korea is now over because he gave Kim the kind of legitimacy the North Korean national gulag has always craved, and received in return around 400 words from Pyongyang, indistinguishable from previous statements made to several presidents before him. He has offered to withdraw all U.S. troops from the peninsula at some point, before Pyongyang has agreed to anything.

    That he took Vladimir Putin’s advice to cancel the forthcoming joint military exercises with the South Koreans was also reported by The Wall Street Journal, hardly a ‘liberal’ publication.

  • Usually, I find your writing extremely insightful. But if you can’t see that optimism is as much of a drug as pessimism then you lose me. Gramsci put it well: think like a pessimist and act like an optimist. But philosophers (such as Ramana, mentioned by another commentaror) seem to me to be beyond this kind of thinking altogether.

    This is not to despairage all that great things you do and the realism you usually display.

  • Thank you, Caitlin, both for your optimism and the Caroline Myss quote.

    Here’s my take:

    It happens.
    First, Germany, next, Korea.
    Countries moving towards unification.
    Taking down walls that
    separate families, divide towns, cut through fields.
    Slowly, they come together.
    And the healing begins.


  • from @statedeptspox: “Any Syrian government military actions against the southwest de-escalation zone risk broadening the conflict. We affirm again that the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Syrian government violations in this area”
    Plus , the U.S. has resumed funding for the White Helmets , no doubt longing for the next installment of their blockbuster series ” By WHay of Deception “.
    And I can’t shake visions of Bolton whispering to a smiling Potus : ” Mr. President , you’re now a lock for the Nobel Prize. That means we can take out Syria AND Iran and you’ll still forever be known as the Peace President.”
    Otherwise though , yes , I’m feeling very optimistic.

  • Namaste!

  • You title this article ‘Optimism’ but there’s been a dearth of that recently. And by recently, I mean ever since Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for getting everyone’s hopes up, and promptly started a few more wars.

    Up until now there’s been ‘madness in the method’ of governing the USA & dominating the world. It has defied all reason and common sense, and simple humanity. Perhaps, there is now a little bit of ‘method in the madness’, even if Trump is doing it for the wrong reasons, as I suspect he is trying to pull off a major coup and project his ego into the stratosphere.

    If he (madman Trump) can make it work, then I’ll (as the Brits say) ‘eat my hat’ and not complain if he is awarded the now very devalued Nobel Peace prize. Hey, I might even applaud.

    I would love to be optimistic, but am not getting my hopes up – just yet.

    • Nicely put.
      Obama’s Nobel prize was pre-emptive. Like most pre-emptive strikes, it didn’t work.
      It seems like Trump’s madness has motivated N & S Korea to work it out on their own. Do you suppose this madness could spread to other places? Then he’d be worthy of a Nobel prize just for keeping the Neocons from interfering (a near-impossible task). Too much peace, and they’ll assassinate him.

      • Thanks Julie. I think his madness motivated him to meet Kim, not because he really wanted to broker a peace deal as such, but because he wanted to brag about pulling off a deal, any deal, that no other president (in particular Obama) could.

        One madman to another – what could possibly go wrong? Everything, of course. Kim isn’t going to denuclearise, and the USA isn’t going to stop sanctions or war exercises (not in the longer term because they ares more aimed at China than N.Korea). Both of them are merely buying time, and playing the game.

        Also, I think you’re right about bumping him off if he causes too much peace.

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