Cynics make a basic and glaring mistake of characterization. And they do it twice.
One, they characterize all of us by the worst of us.
Two, they characterize each one of us as we are at our worst.
So our best isn’t credible enough to characterize our nature, but our worst is. That hardly seems fair. Nor is it friendly. Nor is it honest.
Are cynics unable to conceive that people with guns to their heads behave differently than others who aren’t mortally threatened, and that people with guns to their heads behave differently than they would if they didn’t have guns to their heads? How we behave when we’re relatively safe and not in dire need is part of human nature, too — but cynics discount it.
Cynics imply and even claim outright that the true nature of humanity is revealed by the worst of humanity under the worst possible conditions. Pretending that our worst under the worst conditions characterizes all of us under all conditions is arbitrary, biased, and far from honest. We have the profoundly disennobling dogmas of religion and government to thank for much of this blackwashing, both of which embody the paranoia of injured psyches who cannot believe or trust unless all disbelief and distrust have been obliterated in wars of credibility violence. I suspect applying the blackwash to the cynics themselves is more honest, though. After all, the lenses we choose to look at the world through are the ones that are familiar, comfortable, and make sense to us.
Apparently, judging everyone as seen through shades of the worst of us and at our worst moments — that makes sense to cynics.
How do I know that’s how cynics view human nature? Because they say so. And because their arguments would be nonsense apart from assuming so. And because they’d have some hope for humanity if they simply looked at human nature as it actually is — all of it under all conditions. Then they’d recognize that human nature isn’t as selfish, self-interested, and intent on protecting its own at the expense of others as they claim it is — not even when push comes to shove under dire conditions.
The cynic’s view results from looking at the world through a jaundiced eye with the other eye shut tight.
Why do cynics shut their hope-sensitive eyes, ignoring, belittling, and rejecting the bright side of human nature as if it were ungenuine or incredible? They’re scared shitless that opening them would give hope a chance to gain credence, which would make them vulnerable again to whatever traumatic violations of hope forced their eyes shut in the first place. They know that sincerely entertaining the whole truth about humanity, including humanity at its best, would undermine their cynicism. Rather than confront and deal with the riskiest (to them) parts of the truth, they choose denial instead. This only betrays that they know these supposedly negligible, spurious parts are significant enough and true enough to threaten them. If negligible and spurious, what constitutes the threat? Without confronting and dealing with them, how could cynics know they pose any threat at all?
Cynics know that human goodness is neither negligible nor spurious, nor is it just a twisted mask hiding the true face of human nature, and knowing this is precisely what makes denial necessary. Denial makes cynicism dishonest. Worse, the circularity of refusing to consider what you pretend is not worth considering for fear that it might be considerable enough to change your mind — yeah, it’s just as nuts as that — makes cynicism irrational. Circular denial like this is an essential characteristic of cultic thinking and some mental illnesses, the axle around which their craziness spins.
We don’t have to be naive, gullible, or deluded to see that human nature is far more and far better than cynics will allow. We just need to open both eyes. And until we do, any argument about whether human goodness is greater or lesser or stronger or weaker or more or less fundamental than human atrociousness is a farce.
You can’t argue honestly without opening both your eyes and adequately informing yourself. Time after time again as I’ve listened to cynics, they made clear they had no intention of doing either. They were willing to get vicious in fighting for their right to keep their eye closed, though.
Cynicism might turn out to be honest if humanity’s unavoidable, irreparable fate were to live interminably under existential duress, aka survival threat — physically, socially, financially, emotionally, spiritually. Cynics believe this truly is our fate, that the awful plight of masses of humanity will always need to be endured and tolerated, that there’s little we can do about human suffering on the whole or about the deliberate, brutal exploitation that creates it, and that selfish bastards will always dominate and injure others everywhere on pretty much every scale and in every aspect of life you care to mention, world without end, amen.
With one eye closed, though, that’s blinded faith, not knowledge come by honestly.
Arguing with one eye shut about which side of human nature will ultimately prevail is an even bigger farce — as if anyone has a crystal ball like that, even with eyes wide open. When people presume to predict things they couldn’t possibly know, they aren’t talking about what will happen and how things will be. Instead, they’re talking about the only thing they can conceive or tolerate happening. They’re not giving honest, well-evidenced, deeply considered opinions about what will probably happen, but quite naively and ignorantly (denial does that) insisting that things cannot happen other than how they believe they will happen. Which means, when you really get down to it, they’re arguing for what they really, really want to happen and how they really, really want things to be — as if their beliefs were facts, foregone conclusions, the truth that anyone who isn’t a fool can see, any and all information to the contrary be damned.
Well, if that were indeed the truth, they wouldn’t need to damn any and all information to the contrary. They would be able to open their other eye and honestly consider the information they deny. Instead, they keep their eye shut tight, because they really, really want their cynicism to be the truth.
As such, as seen through a selective, self-dumbified perspective, cynicism couldn’t possibly turn out to be the truth unless, by some unfortunate cosmic fluke, cynics got it right by accident. They certainly don’t have it right by anything rational.
The essential circularity and dishonesty of cynicism is its intrinsic irrationality, the insanity of subordinating the truth about the world to one’s myopic perception of it, insisting that the world is and must be as it seems when seen through a single, darkened eye.