Welcome to the Dark Side. The parallel universe where everything is up in the air, there are no solutions, zero reasoning, and no one has a donkey's clue about what is actually going on, never mind what is going to happen. Welcome to right now.
Next door in Britain, the lunatics really have taken over the asylum; here, RTé's Aftershock series offers a brutally delayed reflection alongside improbable and impractical solutions to a mess that's left us completely confounded. It's like we're in an episode of Lost, complete with Icelandic smoke monsters, and all based on a mysterious island where nothing makes any sense and it's impossible to get off. There's nowhere to go. If the world could have a mid-life crisis, that's where we are: Dr Evil-sized figures handed out to banks to hope their incompetence away; a practically incomprehensible 200,000 people in negative equity; an insatiable desire to divert focus from important issues and zoom in on the inane and irrelevant – headshops, a politician saying 'bigot', stupid 'news stories' that become national 'issues'.
The English philosopher Roger Scruton has a new book out called The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope in which he argues that we have to stop paying attention to people who claim they can see or control the future, those visionaries, predictors and politicians who dupe us into believing they know which foot is the correct one to put forward. "Obvious errors are the hardest to rectify," Scruton says. "They may involve mistakes of reasoning; but their cause lies deeper than reason, in emotional needs that will defend themselves with every weapon to hand rather than relinquish the comfort of their easily won illusions." Unfortunately for us humans, we seek answers in people rather than reason, people who will promise us things, who say they know best, who come across well on the telly. Eejits, the lot of them.
This country is full of those people who thought they could see the future but were in fact more Mystic Meg than Nostradamus. And you only have to look at how misguided we all are to see the people we voted into power who couldn't run a bath never mind a nation. Honestly, look at them. And then look at us.
In this parallel universe, our main component of action-taking was a strange affliction called 'The Balls'. Plenty of people got 'The Balls' in the past decade and are now either chilling in Cape Cod or hoping that we won't remember they exist in power still so we won't go after them. Of course all the smart people were far too self-effacing to get 'The Balls' to spend €375m on a car park in Donnybrook or gamble €2bn on Anglo shares.
The Japanese know where it's at. They've built their entire philosophy of wabi sabi around the appreciation of transience and finding beauty in things that are imperfect. We have been looking for answers in perfection, but stinger for us, perfection doesn't exist. It might be odd to call for Scruton's brand of pessimism, but it doesn't rule out positivity. I'm all for positivity. But optimism is about thinking things are going to get better shortly (ha!) whereas positivity is about making the best of things right now. You can be pessimistic and positive, but you can't be optimistic and realistic because who are you to know what's going to happen?
Also during these days in the Dark Side, we have a strange, contradictory way of trying to improve things when expressing our rage at the arse falling out of everything. When protesters caused a bit of a scuffle outside the Dáil last week, they were widely derided, even laughed at. It just goes to show how idiotic we are. At a time when we actually should be marching on the streets, yet are too apathetic to do so, those who do – whatever their intentions or affiliations – get derided, labelled as lunatics and weirdos. Maybe they are lunatics and weirdos but they can be no more loony or weird than those who got us into this mess, and at least they're doing something, at least they are articulating an anger that most of us won't get off our Ikea-softened arses to do.
Ultimately, it's important to endorse a kind of pessimism because we are crap at learning lessons. Your best friend will continue to go out with girls who have the exact same characteristics, Dublin will never realise that they actually have to play in the second half to win a match, you will drink those seven pints even though that roaring hangover last weekend thwarted your productivity. See? We're bad at learning things. And given the opportunity, if a bank would hand you a 100% mortgage with a smile and a few quid extra for the trimmings, and the authorities told you everything was going to be okay, so you might as well blow the cash, you'd make the same mistakes all over again, wouldn't you?