Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reflections on and some quotes about cynicism

It might be my imagination, but it seems that there is a lot more cynicism in society now than ever before. How is cynicism defined? The online dictionary defines it as ‘an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others’. Another definition is ‘the beliefs of a cynic, a person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness or whose outlook is scornfully and often habitually negative’. It manifests itself in the snappy retorts I often get when I comment (infrequently) about some good thing that a politician or a large company has said or done—for example, comments like 'so-and-so is an idiot and a jerk', or 'that company is corrupt and worthless'. For example, in today’s news, it was reported that Starbucks will pay for its employees to get an online college degree at Arizona State University. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/15/starbucks-online-college-arizona-state_n_5497622.html). There are no strings attached—employees can work at Starbucks, study whatever they like, and are free to leave the company when they have achieved their goal. If you ask me, this is a positive gesture on the part of a large corporation that has a lot of money, one that looks ahead and has understood that the middle class is having a difficult time paying for college education and making ends meet. They are trying to meet the needs of the future. I read the newspaper article about this and then the reader comments that accompanied it. At least half of the comments were blatantly cynical. It struck me that it is nearly impossible to be taken seriously these days, whether you are an individual or a large company interested in trying to do the right thing. You will meet the cynics, the negative people, and the attackers—no matter what good thing you do or try to do. I say, do it anyway and let the cynics and all the other negative people wallow in the mud of their negativity. It will not do any of us any good to become like them. Each time we respond cynically to a particular event, we undo ourselves; we dismantle our own belief systems. We essentially say that there is no reason to believe in anyone or to believe that anything good ever happens in the world, that there is no altruism, and that all people have ulterior motives and are ultimately selfish. In other words, there is no such thing as a good deed.

I’m not advocating naivete, ignorance or stupidity about what goes on in the world. There are enough societal problems to solve that will keep us busy for many years to come. But I am an advocate of accepting the goodness in others when they do a good deed and of taking things at face value if someone does you a good turn. I’m an advocate of kindness, civility, and respect toward oneself and others. If we respond cynically to everything around us, we disrespect and destroy ourselves and others, we disrespect and destroy our relationships, and ultimately we disrespect and destroy the societies we live in. Cynicism negates gratitude; in a cynic’s world, there is no need for gratitude, because there is nothing to really be grateful for. Living in a world full of cynics is about the closest thing to hell on earth that I can imagine.

Here are some quotes about cynicism:
  • A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. ― Oscar Wilde
  • Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist. ― George Carlin
  • Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes'.― Stephen Colbert
  • Life is not an easy matter…. You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness. ― Leon Trotsky, Trotsky's Diary in Exile, 1935
  • Cynicism was a one-way path, and once taken the way back was lost forever. ― Chris Wooding, Poison
  • Cynicism is when a small mind and a hurt heart reject the hope, love, and truth of a big and caring God.― Jayce O'Neal
  • I fight cynicism. It`s too easy. It`s really boring. It`s much harder to be positive and see the wonder of everything. Cynicism is a bunch of people who aren`t as talented as other people, knocking them because they make them feel even more untalented. ― Ewan McGregor
  • To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of being "in the know," cynicism actually destroys intimacy. It leads to a creeping bitterness that can deaden and even destroy the spirit...A praying life is just the opposite. …..Prayer is feisty. Cynicism, on the other hand, merely critiques. It is passive, cocooning itself from the passions of the great cosmic battle we are engaged in. It is without hope. ― Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

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