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'It's all good' — really

Published September 1, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For a now-middle-aged white guy, I've always thought I was fairly hip and understood popular culture. While I continue to be hip, it seems as if I'm a bit behind the curve regarding pop culture. I'm referring to the widespread use in Utah of the phrase "It's all good."

Almost three years ago my wife, Deb, and I packed up our stuff and Louise the cat to relocate to St. George. We left behind 30-plus years in Santa Barbara, Calif. Before the move to Utah, I had spent my entire life in that Mecca of hipness — California. While there, I never recall hearing the phrase "It's all good."

However, in Utah, hardly the epicenter of contemporary pop culture, it rivals the ever popular "whatever" among all age groups.

After hearing "It's all good" from many different people I began to sense its use was an indicator of something deeper than lazy-speak of a hackneyed phrase. This demanded a little Internet research and thought.

The etymology of the phrase "It's all good" indicates it has been around awhile. It seems to have originated with rap performers in the mid-1990s. After that it spread, finally reaching middle-class white folks (me).

Its definition is a bit slippery. Distilling the variations I found on the Internet along with my own judgment produces a definition combining self-confidence to handle adversity, an aversion to victimhood and a general positive attitude. Not Pollyannaish, but a reality-based optimism.

So why is this important? I think the phrase indicates, in a general way, important differences between those who use the phrase, or at least appreciate its use, and those who do not. It represents a shorthand gestalt of their thinking. It is clear that the words we use are a good indicator of inner thoughts and feelings.

Those who avoid "It's all good" tend to be complainers. They see the glass as half empty and often view life as unfair and act as if they are powerless to do anything about their situation. Setbacks, which everyone faces at least occasionally, are catastrophes. Delving into their lives, you will most likely find few friends — most people do not enjoy being around the critical and complaining.

Those who use the "It's all good" are, in general, the direct opposite of non-users. The glass is half full, and when adversity strikes, and it will, they look for solutions and not just to wallow in self-pity and defeat. This is not to say external forces cannot impact our lives — they certainly can and do. But while we do not choose our adversities, we do choose how we react to them.

Although I don't know if they used the phrase, I imagine the "doers" of the world — a Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey — either said, "It's all good," or reflected its values in their speech and actions. They and others of their ilk have a world view that couples positive thinking with a will to discover solutions.

Our country has a multitude of problems — no need to enumerate them here; we are all aware. One might be well-served to notice those politicians and other influential figures that project the "It's all good" attitude of this pity vernacularism. They just might approach problems in a realistic, solution-oriented manner.

As long as there exists a sizable proportion of the population that adheres to a reality-based optimism, then "it's all good."

Tom Garrison is retired in St. George. His latest book is "Why We Left the Left: Personal Stories of Leftists/Liberals Who Evolved to Embrace Libertarianism." Email: tomgarrison98@yahoo.com