Cynicism: Ignorance masked as Intelligence. [i.e. Be Smart, Not Cynical.]
Throughout this possibly short post I am not going to be making the argument that I am a smart person. I am also not implying that by being who I am that makes me smart and that people who are not me are dumb. Basically I’m just going to argue that cynicism itself is rooted in ignorance. As with all my articles I’m doing this as I go along because it came to me on the commute to work.
Take it as you wish. That’s basically what I’m trying to say here.
There is a fad that grows with age. That fad is cynicism. School is partly to blame, as is capitalism, but its not quite that simple. Education without context causes cynicism and unfortunately in the US this has become the norm. We explain to people about World Wars, genocides, famous crimes, and all the wrongs of the past. This is done because of the belief that knowledge of the past saves us from repeating it. We don’t tell people about all the good things that happen because we are not concerned if they do those things, we merely wish to spare the world from more dictators than it must suffer.
Similarly the news feeds people bad news because that is where the profit is. Even if you only have 1 person in 1 million murdering someone each day that is still 300 murders a day to report on. That is a lot of people but in relation to the population it is incredibly few. We don’t think of things relative to population however. Why do people find bad news so interesting? I suspect the main reason is why I find cynicism to be rooted in ignorance.
We like to hear about bad news for the same reason we like to hear about strange things. Murders, robberies, and other crimes are all rarities when compared to the number of people in any area. Yes a single person could rob 10 houses but that’s still a single person, the owners of those 10 houses (and their families) are likely not robbing people. This is where cynicism falls apart. The vast majority of people in the world are not doing destructive things. We like to hear about those that do because they are peculiar to us.
Profitability comes from viewership and in that way capitalism (through news) breeds cynicism.
All taboos and all oddities infatuate people likely because their brains find some novelty in them. Maybe by understanding these oddities we will better be prepared if we happen to be present for one in the future. That’s perfectly fair. However extrapolating the actions of a grand minority to the entire world population is not the act of an enlightened mind, it is instead the act of a blisteringly ignorant one.
If the world was as nasty as cynics belief there would be no cynics. The reason there would be no cynics is that they’d all be dead. If not dead, they most certainly would not have the access to technology to give them a world view. The internet would not exist if everyone was as dastardly as a cynic would make you belief. The infrastructure couldn’t survive all the vandalism that would transpire.
Technology would not advance because people would be getting robbed without abandon. People wouldn’t live beyond twenty and even then only by the grace of some divine being. If our murderous and lecherous tendencies were genuine there would be no room for joy, love, life, or success. All things would crumble and all would die before they had a chance to make anything of themselves.
Cynicism requires a very abrupt end of thought. You must make the statement and believe the statement without actually thinking about the ramifications of that belief. The world must be mostly good because most people operate and survive within it. Yes there are genocides, wars, thefts, and economic collapses, yes there are some people who control nations and erode the good that is done by previous or current generations. But you must not look at these incidents by the size of their damage but rather by the number that act them out.
If a single billionaire puts a nation into poverty that does not mean the world is corrupt. That means that a single corrupt person managed to topple the nation. If it involves that nations government that means of the hundreds of millions of people likely living there a few hundred (likely at most) are filthy. While that is concentrated blight it is not indicative of a national nastiness.
If anything it is that ignorant cynicism that breeds this problem. Because people can pass the buck as being “insurmountable” when really it is a petty and simple thing. It takes energy to not equate the largeness of an event with the actual number of people involved. It only takes a handful of people to drop an atomic bomb and even fewer to order that drop. We are extremely efficient which means that those rare outliers can cause great harm, it does not mean that the great harm comes from a global problem.
I’ll end it there, hopefully the point is visible enough. Cynicism is self defeating even under the lightest of scrutiny. There is a further danger that I’d like to address.
Never regret being kind to someone.
Never regret kindness, treat all incidents where you are swindled as learning experiences. This is what originally inspired the post. On one of my podcasts they mentioned being tricked into giving a kid some bus fare that he didn’t actually need. They thought it was funny but to the listener there might be an urge to call them a sucker.
That tendency of ostracizing people who are kind in the rare case where they are taken advantage of is destructive. We should not reduce our desire to help others in light of a negative incident. Instead we should examine the incidents for clues as to what went wrong. Con artists and other criminals have very obvious patterns. Nigerian prince scams and whatever else you can think of.
The act of being kind to another person is never the wrong choice. Results oriented thinking is not always correct, though we often like to think it is because of hindsight. Think of it like a card game.
If you draw a bad hand in MTG you should always mulligan that hand. If your next hand is bad that does not mean that your original choice was incorrect. You made the right decision but the outcome was bad. It was bad by no other fault than that of poor luck. More often than not though it will be the right decision.
If you stop taking mulligans because of the possibility that your next hand could be bad you will always have a bad hand.
Such is true in life as well.