Friday

Put an End to Cynicism and Scorn

THE PESSIMISM lurking in your mind is supported by our popular culture. That's one of the reasons it is so difficult to be optimistic. And the cynicism of the people around you is reinforced daily in almost every avenue of mass communications. In an article by Henry Porter, the British author makes some great points that illustrate the reason we need to commit ourselves to crushing pessimism. His article is entitled, Time to Put an End to This Age of Cynicism and Scorn. He writes:

We don't question why the last couple of generations, brought up in the West with such plenty and ease, with advantages and privileges unimaginable 60 years ago, so often default to pessimism and irony.

Have you ever wondered why? You would think people in a small village in Africa living on the edge of starvation would be the pessimistic ones, but it is us, the affluent. Why? Porter gives an interesting clue:

In popular culture, it is largely a pose which has become a habit we can't shake off for fear of seeming hopelessly naive, of the derisive voice that says human behaviour is never virtuous or motivated by altruism. A gritty modern 'realism', forged in luxury, not by hardship or insight, is required at all times in the marketplace, even though it must be obvious this is a fairly limited tool with which to understand the world and human beings.

This knowing and fearful cool allows for the expression of very little else — hope, joy, unguarded sentiment, compassion, faith in others, sincerity or the love of simple things. In advertising and in comedy shows, it has become the standard patter and does much to exclude real wit and invention. Comedy routines have become exactly that, which is why I find myself sitting through Mock the Week or Have I Got News for You feeling that either I or these courageous troupers of the faux panel game have become, well, a bit jaded.


If you watch enough television, it would be easy to become jaded. There is a tremendous undercurrent of negativity even in the comedy shows. The point of view presupposed by most comedians is so cynical it is hard not to feel yourself infected by pessimism, even as you laugh at the jokes.


In the quote below, I think Porter points out something worth noticing. Namely, that
people in real life are not that cruel or selfish or unsympathetic. If you know someone who seems overly pessimistic and jaded, it is worth reminding them of it too. As Porter put it:

Weltschmerz and Cynic Inc have infected so much of the public discourse that you forget people are not like this. They are in the main more trusting, more hopeful, more resourceful and a lot kinder than is ever acknowledged in the public arena.

And the most important point Porter makes in his article is that pervasive pessimism impairs our ability to solve problems. "We don't find solutions," wrote Porter, "because we have given up thinking that we can..."

Cure yourself of your own hidden pessimism, and you become more capable. Help other people cure their pessimism, and you make it more possible for us to solve the bigger problems. The best place to start is: Undemoralize Yourself. Then start helping others cure their pessimism.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am an extreme pessimist, and I often think it would be nice to be just a little bit more optimistic, but what do you do when you really don't like people at all? I have nothing in common with the vast majority of people, and the odds of me actually finding someone I can stand is like finding a needle in a haystack. So what exactly would be the point? I honestly have not come into contact with another human being in the last...oh 2 years, that I would consider befriending. So how can I be LESS pessimistic when humanity is always reinforcing my pessimism by just existing? Also, am I supposed to want to deal with people on a personal friendship level when I don't care about their problems? Or when I really don't feel like I'm missing out on anything? I don't WANT friends, I don't WANT to have to spend my time and energy hearing about/helping to solve other people's boring, trivial little personal problems, I just don't have the time, energy or desire to get deeply involved in anyone else's life and business....so what's wrong with me? I would LOVE to know...not necessarily to "fix" anything, but just because I am curious and am always interested in how other people's minds work. Thanks!

Adam Khan said...

Is there anyone you DO care about? Anyone you want to spend time with?

I remember seeing a study once that looked at the differences between introverts and extroverts. I know that's not your issue, but bear with me a second. They found that both groups were almost identical in every way except for one: The extroverts recognized the rewards social interaction gave them and introverts did not.

Now mind you, the introverts also gained those rewards, but didn't recognize them. It's like someone who starts exercising and feels better but doesn't notice they feel better, if that makes sense. In other words, if you actually gave them a mood test before and after, they may have significantly improve their mood without ever noticing it until they saw the results of the test.

Anyway, it's just something I thought of as I was reading your comment. But please answer my question, and I'll see if I have anything useful to say, okay?