Friday, May 06, 2011

The Danger of Cynicism

I used to call myself a cynic. Some might still call me that. But a few years ago I did some study on the original Greek philosophers called the Cynics, and decided that Diogenes was probably not a good role model for me. I'll let you look that up on your own.

This morning I read an article in the newest edition of Newsweek about the rampant cynicism affecting next year's presidential race. The truth is many of us have become jaded and cynical about anything "organized", and politics is near the top of that list. We no longer trust career politicians, we no longer believe the systems in DC or Austin (or whatever your state capitol is) are working for the people, but instead become self-perpetuating machines focused not on effective governance but on the next reelection campaign. A great case in point is President Obama's recent reelection announcement (ostensibly in order to start raising funds now) and this week's Republican presidential debate (really, 18 months before the election? and before all the candidates are even in the race?).

But cynicism does not necessarily breed good change, and I think that was--at least in part--the point of the article. Specifically the article was about Donald Trump running for president. If the 2008 elections show us anything, they show us that a cynical public will gravitate to the momentum of the perceived outsider, and fame, which should lead to more cynicism, ends up guiding us into choosing the very thing we were cynical about. The pigs get into the farmer's house in DC and begin to walk on their hind legs like the farmer. And somewhere around 2014, no matter who wins the election, we're going to be fighting with cynicism again.

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