I’ve been accused of being cynical? Let’s see if that is true.
Cynicism is defined as an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ motives.
“Sounds sort of paranoia but I can agree with that so far.”
A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human species or people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, and goals. This opinion that a cynic perceives as vain are therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment.
“Yes, I suppose what others hold as valuable or amenable I demolish as trash and unworthy of acclaim.”
A common misapplication of this cynical attitude involves its attribution to individuals who emote well-thought-out expressions of skepticism.
“Hummm? Go on.”
Such miscategorization may occur as the result of either inexperience and/or a belief system in which the innate goodness of man is considered an important tenet or even an irrefutable fact.
“Who said that ‘man’ (human) was inherently good?”
Thus, contemporary usage incorporates both a form of jaded prudence and (when misapplied) realistic criticism or skepticism.
“Jaded? Is that now our bias built upon life’s experiences?”
The term originally derives from the ancient Greek philosophers, the Cynics (“I saw them at the Fillmore in ’70”), who rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, instead advocating the pursuit of virtue in accordance with a simple and idealistic way of life.
“Is this not anarchy more than thumbing your nose to conformity?”
By the 19th century, emphasis on the ascetic ideals and the critique of current civilization based on how it might fall short of an ideal civilization or negativistic aspects of Cynic philosophy led the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions. “What is your flavor today? Saving puppies? What happened to the seals and whales?”
Modern cynicism is distrust toward professed ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions, and authorities that are unfulfilled.
“Do we all not question in our rebellious youth the rules and regulations handed us without our input?”
It can manifest itself as a result of frustration, disillusionment, and distrust perceived as owing to organizations, authorities, and other aspects of society.
“I do not sign petitions or walk on protest marches or even donate time or money to causes for I don’t believe they are making a different either.”
Cynicism can appear more active in depression. Cynics are sometimes accused to be “borderline melancholic’s”, which can keep their symptoms of depression under control and yet retain the ability to work, whatever might happen.
“Melancholia? I can understand that. Most of us are distracted from our own wants, dreams and desires by the rudeness of life so I understand melancholia and maybe have experienced depression.”
One active aspect of cynicism involves the desire to expose hypocrisy and to point out gaps between ideals and practices.
“I’m onboard with that so that must be me.”
George Bernard Shaw allegedly expressed this succinctly: “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who don't have it”.
“Why quote a playwright here?”
A study published in Neurology journal in 2014 found a link between “cynical distrust” (defined as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns) and dementia. The survey included 622 people who were tested for dementia for a period of 8 years. In that period, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia . “Once researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, people with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism. Of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 people developed dementia , compared to nine of the 212 people with low levels of cynicism.”
Skeptical means having reservations. Someone who is Skeptical will not easily be convinced or will be hard to persuade. “Show me the proof. Confirmed disbeliever.”
The main meaning of cynical is believing the worst of people, or as NOAD (New Oxford American Dictionary) says, “distrustful of human sincerity or integrity”.
“Now after all that nonsense, I must confess. I am cynical. I’m probably a card-carrying cynic. Maybe I’m the poster child for cynicism? In the seven decades I’ve been aware of my surroundings I have not seen any reason that human goodness is not just a facade. There has always been a war massacring our fellow travelers. We preach of welcoming while building walls. We hold holy vigils and then murder our friends and family. We hold festivals to heavenly ideals that turn into drunken debauchery. We overpopulate due to wanton lust depriving our offspring the opportunities of health, knowledge and freedom to explore thoughts, visions and live dreams.
Being an old codger (which I’ve also been accused) I may not adapt as quickly to the latest fade or folly but I will watch on the sidelines hoping against hope that our species will change. We have created varieties of religions trying to show the rest of society the way, but it has all become another form of politics.
Does that sound cynical?”