Cynicism is the death of humanity

Tuesday, 20th October 2009 at 11:28 UTC Leave a comment

I used to have this slogan on my wall as a fresher, displayed as if it were some kind of ward against a disease. I’m not convinced it did me any good, but I can certainly see the value in making the statement right now, as I seem to have been overcome with an immense amount of this destructive emotion. Almost everything my mind turns to becomes framed with accusations of shallowness, of being out of touch, of being motivated in selfishness; myself, those around me, initiatives that I’m variously involved with, and several that I’m not. It sucks!Cynicism is pernicious; it gets in the way of relationships, becoming a wall where we need vulnerability in order to fully experience human interaction. Gradually it dries friendships, ruins coalitions, destroys all hope of meaningful change. We prejudge everything; we become prejudiced. And it really really sucks.

As I said, right now, my entire mindset seems filled with cynicism. Bizarrely, I don’t feel depressed. Indeed, for the most part, accusing others of ill-motives seems to be making me feel happy, which is kind of dangerous. It would be easy to think this was positive (I spent the tale of last week feeling quite low), but its a deathly situation, one in which the happiness is shallow.

People have often told me to expect to get cynical as I get older. I think this is just a recipe for preemptive misery, for isolationism, for seeing the world around as threatening and wanting to pull up the draw bridges. We cannot build community, essential to a full expression of humanity, through cynicism. We cannot enjoying the blessings and gifts others give us, if we automatically assume ill of the giver.

And like I said, prejudice seeps in. Its not necessarily one of the big buzzword forms of prejudice. In fact, it can often be far more insidious than the blatantly obvious examples of racism, sexism, homophobia. It can be a prejudice unique to ourselves, sparked by a single phrase someone has used. Of course, it can also develop as racism, a sense that some people group are pursuing an ulterior motive. The idea, as the English Defence League are attempting to spread it, that Muslims are moving to Britain to spread hardcore Islam, for instance.

Its certainly a difficult position to find oneself in. And its not the easiest habit to get out of, especially when it becomes ingrained, a part of how we see the world. Thankfully I had the sense to bring it up in a prayer group, and I hope this will have eased off some of the inevitable fall into isolation that suspecting every member of humanity of something or other tends to bring. Its very easy to reinforce ones own cynicism, and begin to spiral out of control. Its also difficult to break the spiral as you have to be open, honest, vulnerable, with those you may already have begun to suspect. The logical conclusion is nothing short of a total paranoid mess.

So much of our politics, so much of the marketing we see, so much of our life is made of cynicism. And after the last couple of days, I’m prepared to say its a complete waste of time being cynical. As the Zapatista spokesperson, Marcos, once said in a speech, one finds them self at “the point of tearing off the clothes resignation has woven for them and cynicism has dyed grey” – the point of rebelling for the assumption that nothing will ever get better, be worthwhile in its own right, be genuinely built on human concern. It is cynicism that is dragging this country towards a Tory government, and towards a break up in society at the same time. It is time we said “enough is enough”.


Entry filed under: Activism, Community, Freedom, Marketing, Participation, Personal, Zapatistas.

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