Panglossian! A New Sing-a-long Song!!!

Some of you may remember a piece I wrote in November of 2007 entitled:
Do You Have a Panglossian Disorder? or Economic and Planetary Collapse: Is it a Therapeutic Issue? With the strategic oil reserves opening up, isn’t it just the perfect time to celebrate denial? Wouldn’t it be great if we could sing about this disorder?

Read more because now we can!:

(My favorite line: “Ov-er-whelm-ing evidence just won’t sink in!”)

“Panglossian Disorders” are defined as: “The neurotic tendency toward extreme optimism in the face of likely cultural and planetary collapse.”

Here are some of the subtypes I described in that article and keep reading to learn how you can sing about these disorders to your favorite Panglossian:

Panglossian Disorders and Their Subtypes

Temporal Subtypes:
Scarlet O’Hara-ism– “I’ll just have to think about that tomorrow.” A strategy of denial that allows the person to temporally compartmentalize the feared event(s).
Futurism: “Sure, that will happen, but it will occur after all of us are long dead.” A belief that something that might happen in the distant future is no concern in the present.
Y2K features: “They said everything would collapse with 2000, and it didn’t.” A belief that any prior concern about societal problems that didn’t occur demonstrates the impossibility of any others happening in the future.

Angry Subtypes:
Rhett-Butlerist Features– “Peak Oil? Planetary Collapse? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Aggressive denial of information not in keeping with one’s world view.
Kill the Messenger Redirection: “Why are you telling me this? What kind of sicko focuses on these kinds of facts? You need help!” The belief that those who bring bad news are doing it for malevolent reasons.

Narcissistic Subtypes:
Rigid Cheney-ism: “The American Way of Life is non-negotiable.” The belief that any undesirable change can be avoided by a sheer act of will.
Survivalistic features: “Hey, if the rest of the world is doomed, I don’t worry about it, because I’ve got mine.” A belief that personal preparation is adequate.

Religious Subtypes:
Religiosity: “God/The Planet/Mother Nature loves humans. He/She/It would never permit massive die-off.” Or “If that happens, I just put my faith in my Savior.”
Neoliberal Econo-manic Tendencies: “The market will sort it out.” A belief that market forces control all— including geological realities.
Nascarian Features: “People love their automobiles. A solution will have to be found to keep us driving.”

Subtypes with Denial or Minimization as the Central Feature:
Pure Denial: “That can’t be right. It’s just impossible.”
Minimalization as a primary defense: “There may be some shortages, but I doubt it will be as bad as you say.”

Subtypes with Histrionic, Helplessness, Acquiescence or Submissive Features:
Submissive Features: You’re probably right. [Shrug]” Too hard/scary to think about… A response that acknowledges the reality of the threat, but is emotionally frozen or unwilling to devote emotional time and energy to the matter.
Histrionic Features: “I just don’t know anything about that. Oh, Golly, I hope you’re wrong. That’s all I can say. Oh Golly, I just can’t think about it.”

Subtypes with Delusional or Magical Thinking:
Meglomanic Features:“This simply won’t happen to me.” A belief in one’s specialness, which will save them from the consequences affecting those around them.
Paternalistic Features: “The government/corporations will sort it out.” A belief in the infallibility of organizational structures to resolve problems they aren’t willing to even acknowledge.
Doubting Thomas Features: “Peak Oil is a scam by the Oil Companies to raise prices!” Minimizing the possibility of the crisis by the belief that some one or some group has ultimate control over its happening.

Pure Cornucopian Features: “The more we need, the more they’ll be.” A belief that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by advances in technology.
The Flintstonian: “The stone-age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.” A belief that modern innovation is eternal.
Frank Zappa-ism: “As soon as things get really bad, they’ll come up with something.” A belief that necessity is the mother of invention.
Magical Thinking: “Don’t worry, we can build a car that can run on air!” Proposes solutions that are clearly outside the realm of physics.
MacGyver-ism Features – A belief that massive planetary problems can be solved with ordinary/common items found readily at hand. Eg.: “Pig dung will be the next fossil fuel.” Or “Coke Cans can be turned into solar panels.”

The Panglossian View

Borrowing Voltaire’s character Pangloss in his novel Candide, we might speak of a Panglossian Disorder as the belief that “all is well and everything in the world is for the best.” In adopting a Panglossian philosophy, Candide accepts situations and tries not to change or overcome obstacles. Instead, he passively accepts whatever fate has in store, and shrugs off his personal responsibilities. The name Pangloss is actually a pun: pan = Greek for ‘all’, relating to the whole universe (English); and ‘gloss’ (English) = both an explanation and an interpretation, which is deceptive in its external appearance. There is also a medical definition: Panglossia: abnormal or pathologic garrulousness, usually of a trivial nature.

Panglossian! The Song!

Now, Michael Nabert has created a musical, incorporating most of these subtypes into his song Panglossian.

Listen to his rendition Panglossian

And read the lyrics below or click on the picture to see the entire poster:

The Soon-to-Be Released Book about Couples and Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Economic Collapse!

P.S. The Book! The Book! “I Can’t Believe You Think That!” about couples that don’t see “eye-to-eye” about where we are going…It’s been delayed, so I’ve extended the cash discount for people buying it now until it is just about to come out. If you want to save 40% on the cost of the ebook, buy it now by clicking the link on the near top right of this page. Here’s a quote:

While living through life’s everyday challenges, a good marriage is a great thing to have. But when one’s vision of the future is not a “brighter tomorrow,” the reassurance of someone by your side, who is “sticking with you,” is enormously reassuring. But what if you see the future turning out one way, but your beloved doesn’t buy it? Here is what this book is all about.

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.


  1. Watch Peaking With Roscoe for that “Empire Has No Clothes” experience.


  1. […] environmentalists who believe in sustainable development also reside here, as Kloor suggests, especially those who are pro-growth, pro-tech, pro-city, and pro-nuclear. Kathy McMahon further subdivides this category in a humorous post describing Panglossian Disorder. […]

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