What Is The Nature Of Cynicism?
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain
Worldly evils, blatant acts of goofy sub-normality, and petty vexations drive us to distilleries faster than a Taco Hell burrito washed down with a Red Bull goes through your system. We are cynical and sarcastic, having concluded that though money cannot buy happiness, it can be used to rent it. We realize that people who describe themselves as "middle of the road" are in denial of the 18 wheeler bearing down on them at 70 miles an hour loaded with rubber chickens. We are overworked to the point that we must make clones of ourselves to handle the workload. The clones are identical to us in every way, except they shout obscenities all the time. This upsets everyone which forces us to dispose of them by pushing them off a bridge inevitably causing a policeman to arrest us for making obscene clones fall. Now if you aren't overworked then you are unemployed or underemployed. Offers for pre-declined credit cards are pouring into your mailbox. The "jobless recovery"? The mob is laying off judges and CEOs are reduced to playing mini golf. And if you are working it's a crap job that has ruined lives. Of course there's the demise of Western civilization, the triumph of degeneracy, barbarism, evil, and MBAs, moronic cheesy books that stay on the bestseller list for 189 weeks, general chronic disappointment, and eternal damnation.
Merely a few causes for cynicism.
You understand there are no smug certainties of any kind... that all the world is a stage and it's littered with product tie-ins. You my friend, are a fellow cynic. We are kindred spirits, brothers and sisters under the skin. whether you are a disgruntled idealist, a subversive wit, a professional misfit, a skeptical jester, curmudgeon, social reject, misanthrope, or a secret sentimentalist who longs for a simpler, sweeter life...we are a tribe.
Were you born cynical? Or has cynicism been thrust upon you? Either way, we here at the Without Shoes blog say "give us your tired, bitter, alienated, underappreciated & overwhelmed because chances are you'll fit right in!History Of Cynicism.
Cynicism is a Greek invention, like the Doric column or the gyro sandwich.
The first Cynics (for some reason when we refer to the ancient ones, the word is capitalized) were the students of a philosopher named Antisthenes, who in turn was a student of the more popular Socrates. Like Socrates, the Cynics believed that virtue was the greatest good. But they took it further than the old master, who would merely challenge unsuspecting folks to
good-natured debates and let their own foolishness cause their fall.
The Cynics were far more blunt when it came to exposing foolishness. They'd hang out in the streets like a pack of dogs ("Cynic" actually comes from the Greek word for dog), watch the passing crowd, and ridicule them for their pomposity , pretentiousness, materialism or downright wickedness. Fiercely independent, they led disciplined and virtuous lives. The most famous of the ancient Cynics was Diogenes, who reportedly took up residence in a tub to demonstrate his freedom from material wants. This cranky street-philosopher would introduce himself by saying, "I am Diogenes the dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels." He'd use a lantern by daylight, explaining that he was searching for an honest man. Even Alexander the Great didn't escape mockery. When the young conqueror found Diogenes sitting in the marketplace and asked how he could help him, the old philosopher replied "you can step out of my sunlight."
As you might expect, the ancient Cynics' habit of ridiculing their fellow citizens didn't win them many friends. People generally don't like to hear the truth. Truth is after all rare but demand for it is much rarer! Who wants to hear unflatterng truths about themselves, especially in public? But the Cynics, like the Blues Brothers; were on a mission from Zeus. As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote "A Cynic is a spy who aims to discover what things are friendly or hostile to man; after making accurate observations, he then comes back and reports the truth."
The ancient Cynics have turned to dust, but their successors have carried on quite nobly.
Juvenal, Rabelais, Swift, Voltaire and Mark Twain have all used the classic Cynics' tools -- bitter irony, biting sarcasm and mirthful ridicule!
It is up to us, my fellow cynics, to expose the follies & timeless foibles of humankind.
If you consider yourself a cynic, take pride in your heritage; as the world needs you now more than ever. Cynicism gives us the often painful power to behold life without its sustaining illusions.
We simply can't pretend the emperor is dressed in splendid finery.
We are compelled to shout "Hey buddy your sorry ass is naked!"
Cynics are not prone to activism. You'd think we'd do something constructive about our discontentment. But we're smart enough to know that we won't prevail, and probably a little too jaded to attempt any labor that's predestined to fail.
What we do is retaliate with our personal brand of wounded wit. Truly, inside every cynic is a disillusioned idealist. Though we can't defeat oppressors, we can mock them!
That's about as much justice as a cynic can expect.
"If crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?"