Cynicism is an easy response to so many issues and situations that we face, and we face too many issues and situations to not be cynical. However appropriate a response to sometimes farcical claims and comments cynicism may be, we cannot rely solely upon cynicism. It is, after all, and easy way out.
Climate change is a dangerous situation that we have caused by our actions but yet cynicism seems to be the popular response to the problem of climate change whether that response is ridiculing the obviously clear science that supports climate change or towards those who make unwarranted assumptions with regard to climate change. Ridicule and unwarranted assumptions are part and parcel of cynicism; they are the tools of the trade.
Woody Allen was quoted as saying “Cynicism is reality with an alternate spelling.” That may be the case but what does it get us? To ridicule a position is sometimes warranted, but rarely helpful. Unwarranted cynicism is what we often are referring to when characters like Jerry McGuire state, “We live in a cynical world.”*
I find myself being cynical when I am afraid, frustrated, and realize that I cannot change the reality of a situation that I do not like. It seems an appropriate response, but if I take a minute to think about it, it is not. It makes for good comedy, and sometimes makes us feel better (at least for a short while), but in the end we are left feeling empty and helpless.
Cynicism is also good at helping us cope, but only if we act upon our cynical viewpoints. I have a beehive that is not as strong as I’d like it to be at this time of year. I am fairly certain it will not make it through the winter. My response: “$&#*% varroa mites and idiot anti-environmentalists…Don’t they understand…” I am, however, not going to give up on the hive.
I think that Woody Allen is incorrect about his view concerning cynicism: reality does not care a whit about the cynic or cynicism. The cynic, in fact, does not face reality, but chooses to dismiss it. Now while I am a cynic, I am also a realist. There’s another quote by Oscar Wilde that I think sums cynicism up: ““A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”
I value the wit of cynicism, but not enough to give up.
*To which Patton Oswalt’s brother replied, “Fuck You!”