Cynicism as a way of life
Our world is a quickly evolving one. We’ve beat nature to the punch on many different aspects, but we still remain fallible beings, deep inside. It’s not quite easy to admit that we are most likely headed toward our collective doom, even for an optimist as myself. I consider the existence of altruistic humans such as myself as a boon for hope. While the war of ideas rages on outside, there is one thing most people seem to have abandoned and that is hope.
Cynicism was, I think, a reaction incurred by sudden and simultaneous secularization of society. On the one hand, it was good because it allowed us to recognize inequalities on so many different grounds, and we’ve begun to work against them. Inversely, putting daylight on those inequalities has unfortunately revealed that many of us do not wish for things to change. It may be easy then, for optimists to become cynical, due to repeated disappointments in how they’d hope the world to be. Idealists are optimists, I find, though not always in the right way.
Most prominent, nowadays, are ideals of cynicism, where we settle once and for all that humans are corrupt to the bone and we must make politics in a way as to curtail such corruption. I think this cannot happen so long as we continue to treat humans as cynical creatures. In a way, capitalism, already a cynical way of dividing the ends that the means of production create, by separating humans in worthy and unworthy, has helped beget this situation we have in the early 21st century.
We trust ourselves less and less and even less do we trust the other. With such a chasm separating the I from the WE, it is not surprising to find that we are living in an era where truth is the one thing we are starving for. This, while we doubt everything that comes to us, because we are tired of being lied to. Evidently, the issue appears to us in such that we may have become too doubtful, too wracked with anxiety to even be capable of discerning truth. We lack the hope necessary to find truth, and instead everything becomes the object of sarcastic scrutiny.
A global state of anxiety is currently in motion, and we are looking for a way out, for anything that will provide us with the hope we badly need. Considering we no longer trust in the other, we are finding it in superstitious ideals of economic prosperity, typically sold along with some kind of nationalistic doctrine of inherent superiority, that everyone else seems to be adopting as well. Atheists so often blamed religion for this attitude, but it is not religion that causes this, it is a lack of hope, which results in dogmatic adoption of superstitious thought in whatever shape necessary.
If capitalists frequently laugh in the face of anarchism as being impossible to realize, religions were perhaps astute in their judgement of atheism, in that with a lack of guidance, we become as lost sheep. Humans need guidance, and with our growing numbers, we cannot afford to become disenfranchised as we have become. As sheep, we will run to the cliffs, as if chased by the dogs of doubt, in order to find any semblance of hope.
Cynicism is dangerous, to that end. Now, of course I do not wish for everyone to adopt religion once again. If that is what you are getting from my words here, you are not understanding and are instead using your doubt to shield yourself from the thing you desire the most: Hope. It is hope that we must give to people, not doubt. If anything, we should have doubt in doubt.
Is hope even possible?
Donald Trump is the President Elect of America, right-wing nationalists are getting a breath of fresh air all across Europe and Russia is close at hand to becoming unhinged from decades of U.N. economic sanctions keeping it from expanding aggressively. Why have any hope? Why think things can get better?
I ask of you: Why not? Why continue to think as we have, if all it does is push us toward inaction and incapacity? Nearly two hundred years of skeptical thought has brought us to such an extreme of cynicism, that our lifted eyebrow seems stuck to the higher regions of our foreheads for eternity. Nothing seems possible anymore and everything seems delusional. In order to restore hope, we need to restore happiness. Leave your scorn at the door, when you see a feel-good movie. Yeah things are grim outside, and feel-good movies seem like they give you a big fat lie, but is watching depressing movies all that better?
Do you like comforting yourself in the ugliness of the world and seeing the entirety of this place as nothing but a sea of foul-smelling shit? I sure do not. I look at all of this and I see a gigantic playing field for spreading ideas that are positive, rather than negative. With all our scientific clairvoyance, we have forgotten the key to human innovation: Hope. It is hope that drives us forward as a human race. You can easily name me a thousand things going on in the world that are wrong, as opposed to the thousand that are good. At that, I am certain you can name many more things going on in the world that are horrible, but is it because nothing good is happening?
No, it’s because we have all become complacent in our cynicism. We are so certain that things are hopeless that we have given up all hope and have surrounded ourselves in this depressive landscape. It is possible to have hope once more, and like John Lennon did with peace, give hope a chance. Give humanity a chance. You know people who are good around you. You all do. You all know this one person who will give their lungs in order to save another human being. It’s not so hard to believe in human goodness, you just need to forget that “faith” is such a bad thing and actually embrace the will to do and think good things.
We can all do it, we must. It is in you and it is in all of us. It’s time to stop thinking of the hopelessness of human existence and to start thinking about the hope that the future may yet bring to us. It may be nothing but death and pestilence, but I for one would rather welcome the apocalypse with a smile than a depressed, silent stare. Death does not have to be bad and life does not have to be a bitch, if you just start to look at it from another angle.
Watch that feel-good movie that you keep sneering at, turning instead to the next episode of Walking Dead, where poor Glenn gets his head bashed in by a baseball bat. Yeah, the world is ugly, but it’s also beautiful. You just have to turn your head a little bit, and like Plato, see that there’s light at the end of the cavern. Unshackle yourself from these thoughts that cripple your hope and start to look for hope in yourself and other people. We are all capable of this, and even if some would rather not hope, keep hoping. As long as there’s one person to keep the fire burning, we can make it through.