This is an exceptionally well put together programme – one that should be repeated every few years as a corrective to the prevailing direction of high-five culture


David Hepworth previews Optimism – Our Enemy in the Guardian 02/04/2016


“I was listening to Optimism – Our Enemy (Saturday, 8pm, BBC Radio 4), Brian Appleyard’s contribution to the Archive Hour, when news of the Brussels bombs came in. Such outrages lend weight to his point that only a fool believes that, in the words of Paul McCartney’s song, everything’s getting better; we should at least temper it with John Lennon’s PS: “can’t get no worse”.

Appleyard believes, as most people from the north of England understand from childhood, that you’ll be a lot happier if you look at life from a glass half-empty point of view. He finds that only English culture could have produced a film like Brief Encounter, in which the heroine settles for something less than the dream of happiness that drives all of Hollywood’s plots.

He talks to philosopher John Gray, who argues that we are not on a steady upwards climb towards perfection, and Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden, who has lots of experience of the mad visionary glint in the eyes of people with a business plan and a dream. All these people are doing is mirroring the mad optimism we demand from our leaders. This is an exceptionally well put together programme – one that should be repeated every few years as a corrective to the prevailing direction of high-five culture.”