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Cynic or Skeptic?

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Blogger Russell Shaw posts (on Huffington) that maybe we as a nation are becoming more cynics than skeptics. I think he is right, as I know I am a cynic these days. Try out some of his examples and see how you think:


I was politically sensient during Watergate, a time when distrust of our Executive Branch of government was quite justified. If you weren't skeptical, then you were naive and Pollyanish.


But over the last couple of years, I've noticed that a healthy, selective skepticism zeitgeist has been largely replaced by one in which no institution is trusted, and everything- depending on whether you come from the right or left or in between- is crooked.



We're no longer a skeptical people. We are a cynical people. Skeptics doubt and ask questions. Cynics think what's the use?


Cynics often view the targets of their scorn as the "they." If you hear someone say "they" more often then "we," he or she is a cynic.


And you have to admit that this prevailing ill wind has led to societal crankiness like I have never seen.


You can see this crankiness online (as on the Internet) or online (as in the queue. You see this in the way people talk, drive, even the look on people's faces. With the exception of our families and our small circle of friends, everyone is suspect. All institutions are either crooked, incompetent, or are so competent they can get away with the most outrageous plots that would put John Grisham or Tom Clancy's imagination to shame.


It's "the they."


What a sick fuckin', cranky society we are. A society that brings to mind this memorable Dylan lyric" "Though I know you're dissatisfied with your position and your place.. can't you understand it's not my problem?"


Societal crankiness as in the following examples drawn from the left, the right, and the apathetic:


Politicians- all crooked. All on the take to the highest bidder.


Dead Politicians- if they died in a plane crash, it wasn't an accident. Couldn't have been.


Media- cowed by the Republican right, chase celebrities to deflect attention from the underreported stories out there. Or, a bunch of humanist lefties out of touch with mainstream Americans.


Movies- Pabulum (left) or cussing-inflused plots to degrade our society by using sex and violence.


Elections- Rigged. Diebold did it.


Voting- What's the use? (see above)


Public Schools- Incompetent, either via underfunding (blame conservatives) or coddled teacher's unions (blame liberals).


Priests- Likely to be gay, or repressed.


Banks/UtilitiesCell Companies- Treat me like a number while nickel and diming me to death (and making huge contributions to politicians.


Hospitals- Greedy.


Pharmaceutical Companies- Very greedy.


The Mail- Never delivered on time. "I mailed a letter from Manhattan to Boston and it took five days..."


Stock Analysts- All on the take from the companies they cover.


My Contractor- Overcharges.


My Cellphone- Shitty coverage.


Our Neighbor- An asshole. Dog peed on my lawn.


Supermarkets- Check-out lines are too long (well, they are).....


Oil Companies- A profit-hungry cabal in bed with the Bush Administration (well, true).


Local Coffee Shop- Slacker baristas listening to clangy music (from the right), or exploiter of workers in impoverished third-world nations (from the left)


Service- Sucks, outsourced, or both.


Rock and Hip-Hop Stars- Ecstasy, meth, crack fiends with lots of bling bling and possies the size of small regiments.


Traffic- Unbearable.


Corporate Executives- Most are greedy and crooked. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling's crime was that they got caught.


Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling- Yea they were found guilty but they will never spend a day in jail. Their lawyers will get them out.


Lawyers- Crooked or at least unethical.


Judges- Crooked, permissive, legislate from the bench, or a combination of all of the three.


Trains- Always late.


Flying- A bus and/or flying day care center at 33,000 feet.


Realtors- Dishonest (unless they are your Realtor).


TV Anchorpeople- Blow-dried airheads.


Bloggers- Rumor-prone, full of themselves (who, me?)


Get off your cynical kick, America. Time to abandon that sickness and readjust back toward healthy skepticism. That'll make you better citizens, better people.

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The Cynics were an influential school of ancient philosophers. They rejected the social values of their time, often flouting conventions in shocking ways to prove their point. They challenged their listeners to get in touch with their "natural" animal side. Their name is thought to be derived either from the building in Athens called Cynosarges, the earliest home of the school, or from the Greek word for a dog (kýōn), in contemptuous allusion to the uncouth and aggressive manners adopted by the members of the school. Whichever of these explanations is correct, it is noticeable that the Cynics agreed in taking a dog as their common badge or symbol, as early as the tombstone of Diogenes of Sinope. From a popular conception of the intellectual characteristics of the school comes the modern sense of "cynic," implying a sneering disposition to disbelieve in the goodness of human motives and a contemptuous feeling of superiority. Though it is possible to be a cynic, philosophicaly speaking, and not feel superior.

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