#36A: Those embracing "Cynicism" have a very
negative, culturally pessimistic view of people and human nature. What
can justify such a view? Consider
answers on three levels:
1) individual, 2)
national and 3) human species.
1) Imagine you've suffered repeated blows in the School of Hard
Knocks; lost "Belief in a Personal God" after repeated appeals
through prayer are met with silence; often been on the short end of
"The Golden Rule"; had "Bitterness & Vengeance"
directed your way; been bloodied by predators' claws in the economic
jungle; been lied to, cheated, threatened, let down and pushed around,
finally concluding: the people—no!
Reaching a point where the only faith you have left is in
yourself, you be-come incredibly self-reliant!
Then you make a mistake. Believing
you're a good person with a good conscience, you put that verdict to a
test. Slowly evidence of
your hypocrisy grows, as does your guilt (Figure #36a).
You're left with only one viable alternative: to laugh at the
folly of human beings!
2) Imagine you've grown up hearing and believing that your
country —the United States of America—is exceptional. "We are
the good guys, superior to other people!" "God is on our
side!" "We are God's
shining city on a hill!" "We
are man-kind's best hope: the land of the free!" After decades of trying to live the American Dream and
watching America on the world stage, you now think of the USA much
differently: as a nation of overstuffed adults (34% are obese), living
in huge houses (McMansions), driving huge, gas-guzzling vehicles (SUVs),
of grabbers with but 4.5% of the world's population using 25% of its
resources. You've come to
believe America's real motto isn't what's on its currency "In God
We Trust," but rather "Greed is Good."
You think shopping is its real religion
and, duped into believing they are the world's freest people,
Americans actually are slaves to their jobs!
Why? Because of
massive debt: they have mastercarded their futures.
Why? Because they're
prisoners of consumption: addicted by corporate-sponsored media
pushers—the same people who give them lobbyists, political campaign
contributions, and the best government money can buy.
A nation of law and order? It
seems the law is on the side of those who can pay lawyers—who
typically charge $hundreds per hour!
Those with just cause but little money are no match for fat cat
lawyers and their wealthy clients.
Their typical game plan is to muddy the legal waters and drive up
the poorer folks' legal expenses so that their desire for justice
retreats as their bankruptcy prospects advance!
At least those folks put up a battle: many just go meekly to
prison. Indeed, the land of
the free has the highest per capita prison population of any nation.
foreign policy? People
elsewhere see the USA as either an imperialistic corporate state seeking
to McDonaldize the rest of the world, or the big kid on the block: a
Many believe that if this bully wasn't so
intimidating he would be prosecuted for war crimes in places like
Vietnam and Iraq by the international community—which, the USA, by
being the only industrialized nation not to sign to the Kyoto agreement
and control its greenhouse gases, gave the middle finger to!
3) Imagine the year is 1969 and the whole species is on trial!
In a courtroom, historian Barbara Tuchman is reflecting on the
20th century. After
recalling her The Guns of August book about the tragic folly of
World War I, she notes, "Barely twenty years after the most
terrible experience mankind as a whole ever suffered...we went at it all
over again!" She asks,
"How could it happen?" This,
she charges, is "the most damaging testimony against man that the
recording angel will have to bring."
Pausing, she suggests (in Practicing History) that one day
"ruin of our environment...may earn a blacker mark!"
Fast forward to late 2007. Al
Gore—after winning the USA national popular vote in the 2000 election,
and being denied the presidency by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court vote along
party lines—wins the Nobel Prize for his efforts promoting An
Inconvenient Truth about the threat to global climate posed by
greenhouse gases. Earlier
in the year, after voicing his fears that humanity has less than ten
years to change its behavior and save the planet, he lamented, "The
planet is in distress and all of the attention is on Paris Hilton!"
Cynics fear that faced with this scary gap between expectations
for a bright future and environmental realities, humanity will be
overwhelmed, fail to meaningfully act, and only laugh!
The result could be its extinction.
Some might say that human history began with
original sin, and will end with environmental sin!
#36B: Cynics could attempt to restore balance to their
unrealistic black and white depiction of the world in negatives by
looking on the bright side: at everything good about themselves, nations
like the USA (see Figure #37a), and in human nature. Instead, many turn
to "Conspiracism." They believe that increasingly the human
experience is shaped by evildoers who band together and work behind the
scenes to carry out plots to subvert the will of the people and hurt
conspiracist's charges turn out to be short on facts or logic, and long
on simplistically placing blame on scapegoats and convenient targets. They believe businesses are everywhere in collusion,
scientists are bad guys suppressing pseudoscientists' work, etc.
Figure #36b recalls notable conspiracy theories of recent years.
Their critics feel they are paranoid.
But, note: a few conspiracy theories have turned out to be
validated by the facts!
Figure #36a: Hypocrisy
back to worldview theme(s) #36