The power of negative thinking

Brian
Brian Jones
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

What the world needs now is a whole lot of negative thinking. We've tried the "be positive" route for the past few years, or decades, and it hasn't worked out so swell.

An astute commentator stated recently that, when the British Olympic committee met in secret to ponder the two hideous, one-eyed phallic monstrosities soon to be unleashed upon the public as the mascots of the 2012 London games, it's amazing that not a single member spoke out to say, "Uh, but they're ugly and ridiculous."

What the world needs now is a whole lot of negative thinking. We've tried the "be positive" route for the past few years, or decades, and it hasn't worked out so swell.

An astute commentator stated recently that, when the British Olympic committee met in secret to ponder the two hideous, one-eyed phallic monstrosities soon to be unleashed upon the public as the mascots of the 2012 London games, it's amazing that not a single member spoke out to say, "Uh, but they're ugly and ridiculous."

The reason why many people, sitting on important committees or otherwise, don't speak up is that to do so is to be "negative."

The urge to be positive has become engrained in our culture, touted mainly by politicians as a way to deflect criticism before it is even voiced.

Along the way, the word has been mangled and manipulated, and can be put into the pantheon of most-abused words of the Anglo lexicon, along with "green" and "community."

To be positive is widely understood to be good, supportive, creative and constructive, contributing to the betterment of a smiling humanity. In contrast, to be negative is thought to be bad, diminishing and destructive, and denigrating to a warm and glowing happyland.

Journalists have been the main defenders and practitioners of negativity for generations, and were famously labelled "nattering nabobs of negativism," first by American vice-president Spiro Agnew and later by British lord cum U.S. prison-dweller Conrad Black.

(Both men's "nabobs" comments were motivated by spite: Agnew's boss, Richard Milhous Nixon, was two headlines away from the slammer; publishing magnate Black never could reconcile his own overblown sense of greatness with the fact that thousands of his employees were better writers than he was.)

Hitting the wall

Perhaps if there had been more negative thinking on Wall Street, the Great Recession might have been pre-empted.

We can only wonder how many, if any, of the thousands of people who work in New York's financial district spoke up at a meeting or walked into their boss's office to say, in effect, "Um, you know, maybe greed isn't so good."

We can equally wonder how many of those quit, or were fired. Negativity often leads that way.

A few years ago, packaging and trading thousands of bad mortgages as if they were good investments seemed like a terrific idea, or at least a positive one. It was unassailably positive, until it turned profoundly negative.

Pushing plans

Some experts have been quoted as saying British Petroleum need not have become one of the worst polluters in history if only it had spent the time and money to develop a backup plan in case of a blowout of one of its Gulf of Mexico wells.

But BP opted not to develop a backup plan. It was positive it didn't need one. After all, if you're capable of sucking oil from a seabed, you must be positive that you know what you're doing.

"Maybe we need a backup plan in case of a blowout," an engineer might have said. The response: "Don't be so negative."

It may seem contradictory and illogical, but this is the truth of it, whether or not it can be explained by physics: a negative approach often leads to a positive result, while a positive approach often leads to a negative result. (See: Nixon, impeachment.)

Ferociously futile

Newfoundland (and Labrador) could use more negative thinking, not less, despite what the ruling Conservatives - like the Liberals before them - contend.

For instance, Premier Danny Williams' positively obsessive determination to continue his David-and-Goliath battle with Quebec - depicting himself as David, of course - will likely look decidedly negative when the legal bill is tallied.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: British Olympic committee, British Petroleum, Conservatives The Telegram

Geographic location: London, U.S., New York Gulf of Mexico Newfoundland Quebec

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I would hazard to guess that if you wrote an article on global warming or potential life on Mars you would find some way to put Danny William's name in it and then, as you have done here, take some sort of disingenuous jab at him. I find this sad, puzzling and unfortunate especially when you're now telling us to think negatively. Positive and optimistic thinking is a trait that has allowed us to carve out, and continuously improve upon, a wonderful existence here on this wind swept Rock for the past 500 years or so and I am troubled and disappointed by your suggestion that we should look down at our shoelaces instead of keeping our heads held high and continuing to reach for the next step on the ladder.

  • Jerome
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Our government is the greatest thing since baked bread. We'll show you, Jones. Go back and read some Marx while you are at it!

    Go Danny!

  • John Smith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    I personally believe, Mr. Jones, that any and all tax dollars that can be spent in an attempt to push back against Quebec are well spent. We are indeed like David, we cannot depend on our federal gov. to help us, we cannot depend on our paltry 7 seats to help us, all we have is premier Williams. He is the only one we have in our corner when it comes to the injustices perpetrated upon us by that corrupt regime. Spend it all premier, money well spent.

  • John Smith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Graham b'y they don't need to show Jones, they already have.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    I would hazard to guess that if you wrote an article on global warming or potential life on Mars you would find some way to put Danny William's name in it and then, as you have done here, take some sort of disingenuous jab at him. I find this sad, puzzling and unfortunate especially when you're now telling us to think negatively. Positive and optimistic thinking is a trait that has allowed us to carve out, and continuously improve upon, a wonderful existence here on this wind swept Rock for the past 500 years or so and I am troubled and disappointed by your suggestion that we should look down at our shoelaces instead of keeping our heads held high and continuing to reach for the next step on the ladder.

  • Jerome
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Our government is the greatest thing since baked bread. We'll show you, Jones. Go back and read some Marx while you are at it!

    Go Danny!

  • John Smith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    I personally believe, Mr. Jones, that any and all tax dollars that can be spent in an attempt to push back against Quebec are well spent. We are indeed like David, we cannot depend on our federal gov. to help us, we cannot depend on our paltry 7 seats to help us, all we have is premier Williams. He is the only one we have in our corner when it comes to the injustices perpetrated upon us by that corrupt regime. Spend it all premier, money well spent.

  • John Smith
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Graham b'y they don't need to show Jones, they already have.