No B.S Friday: what if we’re looking at this problem backwards?
I try not to get too cynical.
It’s very intoxicating. It’s a drug.
But I’m trying to give it up.
It’s hard not to get cynical in times like these.
Remember, cynicism is the belief that people are motivated purely by self-interest; when you are distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. (That’s the dictionary definition, so let’s go with that.)
It’s not hard to see how even the most gentle-hearted could end up cynical in a world like this. People seem to be entirely selfish turds. Integrity is thin on the ground.
Humans are war-mongering monkeys, obsessed with sex and status.
But still I think there is a difference between understanding people and the world in a clear-eyed way, and falling into a cynical world view.
Because the way I see it, most cynicism is a bit lazy.
Cynicism allows you to avoid having to examine the facts on their merits. It allows you to just cut straight to your default setting – a bitter distrust of the human species.
And this has been in full display during Covid.
All nuance, all detail, all reality has just been swept aside by a rush to believe that people are just garbage.
“Of course the government is lying to us about Covid. They are inherently evil and want to eat our souls.”
“Of course the protestors are idiots. They don’t care about our rights. They are just being selfish.”
Cynicism excuses you from any further thought or analysis. It just allows you to throw it all in the basket labelled “Evidence that people suck.”
Job done. Move on.
And I think a lot of the tension we’re seeing right now comes from this cynicism. It comes from people who have fully bought into the idea that people are horrible, and now see everything through a lens of confirmation bias.
So the point I’d make is that cynicism gives you a false sense of rationality.
We think that if we have reached the conclusion that people suck, then we have reached bedrock.
If we’re given the impression that people are nice and do nice things, we are suspicious of that. We look for ulterior motives.
Once we find them, and the data seems to suggest that people suck, then we feel like we’ve reached the end of our line of inquiry. No need to look any further. This must be the true reality.
But why do we think that?
Why are we so ready to believe that people would want to deceive us into believing that people are actually good, while we’re not open to the idea at all that someone might be deceiving us into thinking that people are crap?
Surely it’s in someone’s interest to have us all cynical and isolated?
Why do we never say, “It looks like this is a case of people being selfish weasels, but then that IS what they want us to believe.”
If we think it is possible that there is some vast conspiracy out there, hiding us from the full extent of the world’s evil, why are we not open to the idea that there is a vast conspiracy out there trying to hide all the goodness in the world from us.
What is it asymmetric?
Why do we value cynicism over faith?
So look, I don’t know what the truth is. But nobody does.
All I’m saying is that it is easy to be cynical. It’s lazy to be cynical.
So why not hold the faith and choose to believe in something more beautiful.
And what do you think might happen if we all did that?