A final note on cynicism

27 Jun

I say a final note on cynicism because the last handful of posts I’ve made over the past few months have been me letting go of the edge and beginning the free-fall into cynicism with acceptance. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer and so I’m going to try* and limit the outrage posts. It really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference if I link to some new fresh outrage. Yeah, I could raise awareness about some issue, say pregnant women being sent to prisons for miscarriages, but it doesn’t matter. I’m mostly preaching to the choir and the whole thing is just a big circle jerk.

I’m not here to list any more reasons for cynicism, I have plenty of posts about those. What I’m here to say this time is in response to a sentiment I seem to encounter a lot in response to my cynicism.

A week or two ago I was at dinner with a bunch of friends and I mentioned how I had finally accepted my cynicism; that I had no hope for the future of this country, and how I wanted to get out while I still could.

One of my friends agreed with me, though another said that while they fully understood my reasons for feeling this way, that they “had nothing to gain from that philosophy.”

This struck me in a strange way. I felt like my friend was admitting to knowingly deluding himself simply because he did not want to face the alternative. Several other people who I’ve talk to about this have voiced similar sentiments.

What I found really perplexing was that my friend who told me this was a fellow atheist. “I have to believe there is a God because the alternative is too terrible to imagine” is something we atheists hear a lot. Now replace “God” with “bright future for America.” It’s just as ridiculous.

When the evidence predominately points in one direction and yet you refuse to accept it, you’re deluding yourself.

Interestingly enough, just as existence without a god is not as terrible as theists imagine, existence with cynicism also is not as horrible as deluded optimists imagine.

Just because you’re cynical doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. It doesn’t mean you can’t be hopeful for some things. It just means you’re more realistic about how the world works.

The cynic can never be disappointed, only pleasantly surprised. 

Since I embraced cynicism I’ve often felt like people dismiss me out of hand as being a “the sky is falling!” loon.  They point to the people on street corners with signs warning that the end is near and ask me how I am any different.

I understand where they’re coming from. A while back I would have said the same thing. Things have always been changing, we’ve always pushed the envelope further and further. Who’s to say we’re finally near the breaking point?

To a certain degree they’re right. The world is not going to end, society is not going to collapse, the end is not near. That’s never been what I’ve been saying. I’m saying things are getting worse.

“But things have always been getting worse!”

That’s a very myopic view. In my hopeful, naive, firebrand liberal days I always believed in the “steady march of progress!” There is no such thing. Things sometimes get better, things sometimes get worse.

From the middle ages to the 19th century things got bad for western women. Slowly over the last century things have been getting better. Now it looks like the trend is reversing again, at least in the US. Things in Germany were going well at the turn of the 20th century and then took a turn for the worst. Afterwards things slowly got better.

I guess my cynicism is just a realization and acceptance of this cycle of human existence.

All I know is that our situation with regards to the economy, environment, education, civil liberties, etc are all getting markedly worse in this country. We’re facing another trough in this human cycle. Sure you can be upset about it, but it’s perfectly natural, like seasons. The US is going to have to face the consequences of its decisions sooner than later.

I just don’t want to be around for the winter that precedes the spring. By all indications it’s going to be a harsh one.

One Response to “A final note on cynicism”

  1. teo July 20, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    O now, another lost soldier in the war against cynicism…

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