I ask because I am decidedly not. I am a miserable bastard. I walk around the city in a slow-cooker of scorn and misanthropy, deriding and criticizing what I see as stupid or, at best, deluded. It's partly because I'm a stand-up comedian but also because, from the sociopathic mass-capitalism on display at malls to a Blundstone-infested, self-serving, upper-class farmers market, all I see is a society gleefully jerking itself off into oblivion.
In short, I'm a hater (and possibly a loser, sorry Donald).
Admittedly, a lot of this is due to my mental health. Depression and anxiety are great for inspiring bile for your fellow humans, and the more the bile isolates you, the more you come to rely on these two constant riding partners. That most of my political viewpoints, from despising free trade agreements to not liking Hillary Clinton, are influenced by the permanent Larry David voice in my head is something I constantly wrestle with. Is the disgust justified, or is it just another trick that the lack of serotonin in my brain is playing to keep me glum? Maybe I'm not cynical, maybe I just need some more Vitamin D—more "Sunny Ways" as it were.
My girlfriend is not like this at all. She is a wonderful person, filled with kindness and hope. When she runs into friends, they all light up in a way that I only did when I got my marijuana dispensary card. I like to describe her as a believer: She believes in herself, in us, in God (not in a gross way), and in the future. She is optimistic, and when life hurts her and throws obstacles in her way, she responds with courage and hard work instead of the callous bitterness that I do. If we were eggs, she would be sunny side up while I would be a hard boiled one that fell on the floor and rolled under the table. We're a great match. We make each other laugh, and I cause her to rethink some of her purchases while she provides me with the light that I, the disgusting zebra mussel of our relationship, can feed on in order to survive.
She is an inspiration for me. Proof that optimism need not only be the province of charlatans or naifs. She is also a reason for me to attempt find a way to feel OK about this world that we live in. I don't want to permanently be the Eeyore to her Tigger; she deserves a partner who can provide his own hope and positivity. So I fight against the depression. I stop smoking weed. I practice mindfulness and exercise more. I do the work my therapist asks me to do instead of treating our sessions as just a lap dance for my feelings.
Then climate change reports like this are released with such choice quotes as:
"If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large-scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters," the paper states. "The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable."
Great. It's news like that (or this or this) that makes me want to throw up my hands and just say fuck it and commit fully to my hater attitude. What's the point of trying to believe in myself, my relationships, and my dreams when Greenland is melting into a memory. What's the reason to debate having kids or home ownership when salt water could be carrying off our baby stroller in my lifetime? The tragedy of mass extinctions and an ice-less Antarctica makes all the plans my partner and I have seem like what they are: the kind of delusional bougie dreams that are a by-product of the self-obsessed culture that got us into this mess in the first place.
The hating and the bile resurface then as my rebellion against a world that is letting this happen. Hating for me becomes a moral act. I don't want myself or anyone else to enjoy a culture that is obscuring this horrifying truth. We shouldn't be enjoying ourselves, not when our sloth and greed is causing another mass extinction, as if humanity is an asteroid made out of Cheetos. I want to hop online and slag everything, a scorched earth policy. Spoil every movie coming out and mock every band my friends like and every cause they get involved in. Fuck living in the moment—it's a moment that's built on carbon emissions and the bones of the poor. Fuck meditating unless it's meditating on the oncoming collapse of civilization. Fuck your recipes and your yoga poses and your Spotify playlists. You can't float on any of those things anyways.
The temptation for me when confronted with our world's bleak future is to remove myself then, to detach myself from my loved ones through irony and weed. Sorry baby, but I gotta go, time to do myself in Jim Morrison-style, but with tweets and snacks instead of whisky and Freudian yowling.
Then I think of my girlfriend, hustling, making time for friends and loved ones. Fighting through doubts as pervasive as my own. She deserves better than bile. So I pause and scratch a bit beneath the surface, and with introspection, it becomes clear: I'm full of shit. This hate on which I want to martyr myself and my love is a frail cover, a mask over top of one thing: fear. Mountains of it. Fear that we won't last, fear of failure, fear of death, fear that the world is crumbling so fast around us that our lives will be swept away before we had a chance to make them mean something.
I'm not a hater. I'm a coward.
This doesn't mean that I have to be an optimist. I can still think the world is heading to a shitty spot and that our society is too corrupt and shallow to stop it. But it's not enough to just hate—that risks nothing. I have to have the courage to treasure and value the things in my life that are special and fight for their safety. I want to reach out, grasp all I can, and hold on instead of withering in a comfortable despair. I want to be brave in the face of climate change, not cower.
And when the irradiated mutants emerge from the sea to suck my lover's soul from her mouth, I'll be standing right there beside her, flaming pitchfork in hand.
Jordan Foisy is a comedian based out of Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.