The Thrills of Being an Urban Idealist: Why the positive is not Pollyanna in Matriarchal Storytelling
Optimism gets a bad rap these days as Batman is seen as cooler than Superman, but the problem is we have confused what is optimism with what is pessimism, and then our perceptions become misaligned.
Optimism is not about not seeing reality as it is. It is about being confident in your ability to improve a bad situation – but it is also seeing that others around you can do better because they are capable and you push others to try harder so their lives improve.
You see the faults, but optimism compels you to better your surroundings.
Pessimism, on the other hand, is not about seeing a bad situation, but not having the confidence of seeing the solution.
Often, pessimists complain, but other times, they are sneakier with how they frame their negativity. They spin bad things to make them sound like good things. They live in a dump, but then go on and on about how great things are – always spinning a bad situation so they don’t have to deal with the rot and ruin because deep down, they think they cannot overcome; so they retreat and make excuses.
That is latent pessimism.
It is often hard to distinguish optimism with latent pessimism, unless, of course, you use Matriarchal storytelling techniques to weave your stories.
The Matriarchal is all about realism in human interactions, not wishful thinking: because we have multiple protagonists weaving in and out of stories, there is a scientific element to it: we can directly compare characters, their mindsets, and outcomes. In the patriarchal, characters are in a vacuum, so we must take a narrator’s word that the hero is an optimist or pessimist.
In the Matriarchal, we see the results and outcomes of various characters of equal importance, and thus, we can begin to see patterns. Is the hero really optimistic when he does nothing but be an apologist for toxic behaviors? Is the heroine who seems like a complainer resigned to a bad situation – or is she realistically assessing a situation to see the flaws – but also the latent strengths because she is a visionary who wishes to rise above the mess around her?
Suddenly, we have far more complex and interesting philosophical fodder to contemplate: what is the meaning of optimism? Can you be both an optimist and a realist?
Of course you can. You can be an urban idealist: you see all the problems you face, but you still strive to push forward because you know you can be better as you make your surroundings better. The Matriarchal favors urban idealists who do not wear rose-coloured glasses – but it doesn’t stop them from being Edenic in nature: they strive for utopia by creating a mosaic.
Which leads us to another interesting perk of Matriarchal storytelling: characters do not have to be extremist, but they can be from the radical center: they can be a balance of two seemingly contradictory qualities. The realistic optimist seems like an impossible quality, yet with the Matriarchal, it is more than possible to be both. A utopian who believes in embracing the infinite also sounds impossible, yet with the Matriarchal, it is an ideal.
We can embrace new combinations of personality traits to create balances that reflect modern sensibilities. It is not either/or all the time. We can understand the value of One just as we can understand the value of the Infinite.
In other words, we can be urban idealists as we are out to make the world a kinder place. It is not a childish delusion: it is an innate drive to cherish and unleash with confidence.
The Matriarchal gives us the tools to tell stories from a different point of view: we can see the problems like Batman, but strive to solve them like Superman.
We can be both. We can bring both extremes together to meet in the middle, and when they embrace each other, nothing is impossible.