In a Time of Cynicism

We live in cynical times.  It was inevitable, probably, that cynical is what we, as a species, would become.  It’s a bad, bad world out there.  Horrible things happen all the time, and not just to people who deserve it.  Nasty things happen to nice people and they happen all the time.

Even if you pay the smallest amount of attention to what’s going on in the world around you, the message is clear: life is not fair.  If there is a great plan for humanity, it must have been derailed.  Either that, or it is a plan that is pretty darn mysterious at best, nefarious at worst.

I’m sure the present is not unique in its atrocities and injustices.  Read a bit of Dickens or Anne Frank and they can attest to that.  But I do think we have an unprecedented awareness of the crimes committed in the the world at large, often in our name and in the name of things we think we believe in.  And what we have lost is the faith that the things being done in our names are intrinsically for the right and the good.  We are coming to suspect that maybe they are being done for money or power or ego or oil.

Living a middle class life of relative ease in North America, it is easy to fall into states of guilt or despair.  Guilt that we have it so good when others don’t, when the reason others don’t is often as a direct result of us having it so good.  Despair that the system is so entrenched that there is nothing we can do about it.  We know that we are tiny cogs in a huge machine and the challenge of effecting change appears to be insurmountable.

The postmodern reaction to this conundrum seems to be a reliance on ironic detachment.  I think a lot of sincerity still lies in all of us, but it’s hidden under a protective crust of cold, passive cruelty.  It lets us get though the day and we disguise it as humour.  I know that I, for one, had mastered the cutting art of sarcasm by the age of nine.  When I was 21, I made a conscious decision to pull that part of me back, because while that kind of person is well accepted and common in our society, I would prefer to live in a society where she isn’t.

Ok.  Um.  Wow.  That was not the tone I was planning on for this post.  Would you believe that all that was an introduction into my telling you that I saw the new Muppet movie last night?

It was great!  It was simple and sweet and funny and nostalgic and sincere.  It wasn’t flashy or in 3D.  And the theatre was packed.  And the audience was having a good time.  Honestly, the fact that it got made at all — now — made me feel a little better about humanity.  I left thinking that there’s hope for us yet.

2 thoughts on “In a Time of Cynicism

  1. I’m impressed that you made a conscious decision to curtail your natural sarcasm at the age of twenty-one. It took me more than twice as long to make the same decision. And it still slips out all the time, especially when I’m tired. But putting sarcasm off to the side makes room for so many more possibilities. Your writing is probably richer for it, and more sincere. I’m glad I found your blog.

    • Oh, sarcasm is a knee-jerk reaction and I still do have to make a conscious effort to hold it back (which is hard when it makes people laugh, but they’re cheap laughs), but I do think doing so has made me a nicer person. I hope so anyway.

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