That Loathesome Thing

by Jocibet

Here is what worries me about cynicism – and yes, I am using it in terms of the general usage of the word today, not the philosophy of Cynics of ancient Greece. What concerns me about cynicism in terms of dialogue, especially in the realm of politics and society, is that it is lazy and insincere and hence stops short the process of understanding. It prevents new ways of thinking, new approaches or honestly evaluating past and current approaches. It perpetuates prejudices and hopelessness. The arrogance of it looms so large that real and new problems are totally unnoticed or dismissed as they are just swept into everything that cynicism encompasses.

Here are some of the most egregious examples of cynicism in the United States political environment right now – usually opined by all sorts of pundits and politicians alike:

The government is generally evil and/or causes evil. (I intend to find an example to link here.)

The government must protect people from themselves.

People are lazy.

People will only ever care about themselves. (I intend to find an example to link here.)

The free market and/or capitalism will correct [insert societal/economic/civil ill here].

Corporations and industry will destroy our environment and individuals.

Cynical shortcuts, all of those statements – however these are bedrocks of political dialogue today. They may not use those exact sentences, but if you read or watch the news, listen to pundits and talk show hosts, and listen to politicians you will hear those statements, couched often in code words and phrases (“hard-working Americans” a code phrase that is meant to bring to mind all those non-hardworking Americans or “corporate greed” is a code word to remind you that greedy people just lost Grandma’s retirement and put mercury in all the fish).

Feel free to comment if you would disagree with the cynical nature of any of those comments.

So – what is so good about wisdom? How does wisdom strengthen dialogue? What does wisdom provide that pure intellect or knowledge might miss? Is there such a thing as wisdom, or is it the same as intellect+knowledge? I have a hard time answering this one myself although I have a lot of ideas, and would welcome thoughts on this.

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Is it cynicism or wisdom?

by Jocibet

The Republican party as it is today – not as it was when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s – disgusts me.

The Democratic party, as always, irritates me.

The Libertarian party, the true conservative party of this day and age, often frightens and yet delights me.

The Green party enrages and also comforts me.

What else is there? The independents? You have to look at them one by one, which I actually enjoy doing as it seems to me to be what you always ought to do in a democracy although it frequently seems all of a sameness.

I have a tendency to look at them all and see myself – my hopes and dreams, my naivete, hypocrisy and prejudices – mirrored right back at me because in the end I cannot identify with any, and they constantly remind me why.

I have a fundamental, real-world experience with the rhetoric and policies of the Republican (old and new) and Democratic parties. I have a basic understanding of Libertarian and Green Party policies and rhetoric from my own past flirtation with both parties, plenty of family/friend debating and analyzing and a recent review of specific party platforms.

I never do like labels of any sort, so sometimes I have wondered if that alone might be a prejudice against them. That is why I started tonight with a review of platforms. I wanted to see if I could find something that I could logically and rationally be concerned with, to the point where I could not tolerate being associated with them. And I found them.

I also re-reviewed the philosophy of anarchy. I generally end up using that word to describe my own stance (using this definition “A social state in which there is no governing person or group of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder)”), adding the modifier of “practical” in front of it. I think that if I’m going to use that description it needs that kind of modifier. True anarchy does not seem to work for any sustainable amount of time or for large groups of people crammed together. Neither does it seem capable of dealing with industrialization and the entities of corporations, and the structure of the United States today. This is also rather unsatisfying.

Now make no mistake – the title of this entry is by no means questioning whether or not examining all of the options and determining whether or not I agree with them is wise or cynical. This is quite obviously wise to my mind and no argument to the contrary will sway me.

The crux of the title centers around the fact that my rational reasons to disagree with all of those parties has allowed me to disassociate with any party and its activies. I have no desire to really talk to any of the leaders of those parties to make my views heard nor to participate in rational and/or emotional dialogue with the people of those parties who are active in governing.

Is this cynicism? Am I making the cynical assumption that anyone I talk to would never come to any sort of understanding, much less agreement? Am I right – that participating in actual dialogue with real political leaders would cause me to become so cynical about the people and nature of politics and that it might cause me to disassociate even further? Could it drive me to the point of deliberate inattention and refusal to talk about this to people who are in my sphere? Would it truly be rank hypocrisy to join whichever party that would make me feel the least dirty – just so I could do any-kind-of-something about the things that I agree with them on?

Or is it wisdom? Is it really not worth my time? Should I just keep pondering, argue and discuss and analyze with friends and family, teach my children the nature of this world we live in as I perceive it? Write about it?

The absurd thing about posing this question is that even if someone were to say something utterly brilliant, that totally illuminated the cynicism of my position, I still won’t do anything about it any time soon. Even though I loathe cynicism in myself and others (another prejudice and hypocrisy, two for one right there) I don’t currently have the motivation to truly participate right now.

And conversely, even if someone were to say something equally brilliant about how wise my current path of relative isolation from activism really is, I would always wonder if I should still be more active in grassroots politics.

I think the real reason I am writing on this topic to start is to try set out some baseline expectations for myself of what I want to really get into. Firstly, that I have profound emotional and intellectual disagreements with all of the political parties of any stature currently in the United States and I do really want to get into that. Secondly, I am on a search for something to help me find a way to encourage in our political environment what I really want to see – thoughtfulness, rationality and a fair portion of intellect, understanding of human nature, understanding of power and it’s effects on the economy, race, politics, security, diplomacy, true humility and the nature of forgiveness combined with wisdom.

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 5:12 am  Comments (1)