Unbearable Despair

Ian Mitroff
3 min readMay 13, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

I am constantly amazed by the constant similarities and strong connections between different Op-Eds in The New York Times. I’m even more amazed by the fact that the Editors fail to comment on it.

Yes, I know that Op-Eds are written independently of one another, but given that so many touch on the same Themes and Issues, one would expect even minor acknowledgement of the similarities. And yes, I also know that in letters to The Times, readers often comment on the parallels between them. Nonetheless, given the importance of the issues, it’s not enough.

The December 17 edition of The Times contains a striking example of exactly what I’m talking about. Thus, in writing about the perilous times in which we live, Michelle Goldberg and Jamelle Bouie are especially bothered about the General Despair that engulfs us[i].

In Bouie’s words:

“…this isn’t just a problem of the Republican Party, our political institutions or the broader sense in which the entire system just isn’t responsive to the way ordinary people see things. It is also a problem of the lack of countervailing forces to political despair in present-day American society.”

For Ms. Goldberg:

“The right has an advantage in appealing to dislocated people: it doesn’t have to provide a compelling view of the future. All it needs is a romantic conception of the past, to which it can offer the false promise of return. When people are scared, ‘let’s go back to the way things were’ is a potent message, especially for those with memories of happier times.”

The point is that except for Issues such as Abortion, which is one that affects many people directly, and of course Fear of Trump and his supporters, the Left has troubles in connecting with people on other Matters of immense importance. While obviously important, Climate Change doesn’t have the same salience. And, while people feel that our Democracy is in trouble via the enormous Divisiveness that haunts our every waking moment, what to do about it remains elusive given the intense Polarization from which we are suffering.

The feeling is one of Utter Despair and Hopelessness.

This is not to say that Democrats and the Left have to give up offering Messages and Visions of Hope. It is nonetheless to recognize that Fear is one of the most potent Emotions and Motivators of all. We have no choice but to go all out and stress the Apocalypse if Trump is reelected.

[i] Jamelle Bouie, “Defeating Trump Is Just a Start,” The New York Times, Sunday, December 17, 2023, P SR2; Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, Sunday, December 17, 2023, P SR3.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Gary Meulemans on Unsplash