Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cynicism... Does It Have It's Time And Place?

"Idealism is what precedes experience, cynicism is what follows."

-David Wolf

If it's Sunday, it must mean I am running a video on Ellipsis. I think I am going to give myself a break, and make this a regular feature on my blog, at least until the big thaw in the spring. We will see how it goes. If you hate it I will lose it, so be sure to leave me some feedback. I want my blog to be interesting and fun to visit, so your input means a lot to me. Now, let's talk about cynicism.

When you think of the word, what initially comes to mind? Do you think of cynicism in purely negative terms, or do you see a good, does of cynicism as more of a instinctual alarm? Do we become more negative as we get older? What does it mean to be a full, complete, card carrying cynic? Can being cynical have a positive outcome? How does cynicism work in your life?

Here's why I am asking. I find myself sometimes really getting in touch with my cynical side, especially during election years. But don't get me wrong, my cynical radar doesn't just go off when politicians talk, it happens when I hear, or see, certain other dynamics. One such subject might be when I hear those cheesy commercials which promise every man over 35 will suddenly burst into song and sing the "Viva Viagra" song, if they will pop that little pill, or that I could "Lose 300lbs In Just 5 Weeks," just by replacing all my meals with a liquid squid supplement, and 6 hours of exercise a day!

Do I miss out on opportunities because I am a "Doubting Thomas?" Are most folks honest, or do we, in an effort to avoid being labeled "cynical," fall for the lines in life because we want to believe that this party, that religion or maybe even that boyfriend, will make life perfect? I am a Christian, but I rarely mention that fact on Ellipsis. I am also a Christian who also knows she will more then likely never step back into a church again. I always came out of the services I was attending, feeling worse then when I went in, but it didn't have to do with God, it had to do with the people who were around me, including the church leaders. Sigh.

I have mentioned before that I dated a Church minister before Alan. In fact, I met him through Alan, and I fell for that guy... hook, line and sinker. He, come to find out, was the last person in the world who should have been preaching. I think I honed my cynicsm skills just by dating him, and all these years later, I still feel the same. Cynicism can creep, oh so subtly, into our lives, but is that a bad thing? Let's take a look at cynicism in politics.

Did you hear about the incidents this week, regarding the statements made by Bill and Hillary Clinton? Let's start with Bill Clinton's "misstatement" first. This last week, Bill Clinton used the word, "fairytale" to describe the campaign of Barack Obama. Afterwards, it was held up to scrutiny by S.Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, who told the New York Times that he found the remark to be "a slap at the image of a black candidate, running on a theme of unity and optimism." You know, I don't understand this reaction.

I saw the clip that caused such an uproar, and what I got from it was exactly what I have been saying about the Obama campaign. Other then using the word "change" ad nauseum, I have no idea what real change Obama will bring. He never really gets specific enough for me. His speeches do feel a little like a fairytale to me. Sometimes, he reminds me a lot of George Bush when he was running for president. Remember when Bush said he was going to be a "uniter?" He was going to bring a more "moderate" era to the White House? George Bush's White House, has been anything but moderate, and as for unification... well... you tell me.

I wish he would. I want to hear more before February 5th. I take my politics very seriously, but this pointing of fingers, and manipulation of everything that comes our of everyone's mouth is disturbing. We don't seem to be able to tell the true offenders from the good guys anymore. Bill Clinton was well liked among the African American population during is presidency, so has he suddenly become racially intolerant? I don't think so. But here we are, once again, distracting ourselves from real issues, and at the same time, embracing cynicism. Deciding to automatically think the worst. Ok, just a question here, was the incident being used to sway voters who might be on the fence, toward Obama? Am I asking an honest question or am I allowing my cynicism to run free.

Now, how about what Hillary said. Did she mean that Dr. King's role in the Civil Right's Movement was not as great as Lyndon Johnson's? Of course not. She was merely pointing out the relationship between what the White House can accomplish when pared with the talents, drive, and accomplishments of true American heroes like Martin Luther King. It should have been a nice thought. It should have been seen as yes, it's true, we can have a president in office who not only cares about the needs and well being on all classes, all races, all genders and all economic backgrounds, indeed an example has already been set. We can have that again. True unity. And you know what... experience is something to be embraced. So where is the cynicism coming from?

Do we all have "Bush fatigue" to the point we are looking for the negativity? Is it all a case of "preemptive strike?" Are we all so tired of the fact that it isn't all that easy or reasonable to try and figure out who is speaking from the heart and who is speaking from the hip? Are we lazy in our cynicism, because thinking positive can hurt us? Kinda like dating a really bad boyfriend, you never really get over how it feels to find out how wrong you can be, especially when you have had the fairytale right in your hands, and you want more then anything to believe it.

Share your thoughts with me. Do you think you lean more towards the positive or the negative in life. Do you feel you come into most situations in life with an attitude of cynicism or are you more inclined to be open-minded? Do only certain subjects cause your negative meters to go off? Religion, Politics, the Economy, the Military... what is your first thought about the futures of those things? Opinions, opinions please!

"Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth."

-Lillian Hellman



Liz said...

{{{Carly}}} I find myself leaning more towards the negative, unfortunately. I really want to become more upbeat, positive & I'm working on it in therapy. I've noticed that I focus on the bad stuff & then when it doesn't happen & something good happens, i'm pleasantly surprised. ::big sigh::

Now for a naive question, how do I put a Youtube video in 1 of my posts? H~e~l~p!!!

~~Aunt Nub~~

fdtate said...

I lean toward the positive in my life, but get very cynical about politics and other aspects of modern life. I used a Lily Tomlin quote in a recent post: "No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up." I find a little cynicism to be a healthy thing.

Very good analysis of the whole racism hubbub that's been going around for a few days. If you listen to Bill's comments, you can see that he's talking about the fairytale that Obama's always been against the war. It wasn't anything racist. But it's often hard for me to tell what IS racist anymore. Who knew that "clean" and "articulate" could be racist terms? At least that was the reaction when Joe Biden used them in describing Obama.

BTW, I love the video and the song. R.E.M. is a big favorite of mine. I also like the Sesame Street version, "Furry Happy Monsters," that comes up in the little menu at the end of the video.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

There's a distinction to be made, I think, between critical thinking and cynicism. If someone makes an extraordinary claim and backs it up with pretty pictures (and "results not typical" at the bottom of the screen in small print), then critical thinking requires that you not swallow it whole.

What happens on the political stage is something else again. I'm genuinely undecided among the various Democrats (if he had a chance I'd probably vote for Richardson), and, lazy me, I've been hoping for some clear indications to emerge that Candidate A or B or C is capable of beating McCain and would do a good job as president. But that's not what's happening. The press and the candidates are busy picking apart each others' words, looking for something that can be labeled a mistep, as racist or unrealistic or whatever. That doesn't help much. That's not going to be a basis for my vote - I hope!

Karen Funk Blocher said...

P.S. I've wondered about that song for years, but never actually heard it before. Thanks.