Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cynic Paradise

According to the dictionary, a cynic is defined as a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts. I would say that this captures the essence of it pretty well. Usually a cynic is painted in a wholly negative light. But with their frame of mind as a nabob of negativism, I would say perhaps that their image is justified.

Most people, when asked to name someone they view as a cynic, can immediately call to mind one or two examples from their lives. If you simply view the expressions on their faces and their associated body language as they mention these names, you can already guess what they think of these folks. In fact, the seed for this post was planted after a casual conversation with a friend of mine that took place just the other day. As our conversation wrapped up, I thought it appropriate that his picture should be included in the dictionary beside the definition for cynic. He would be the person I would name if asked.

My friend is in his mid-40s, and was born and raised in Russia. Although he has lived and worked in the U.S. for nearly 15 years, he still regularly travels back to his home country. Often when we strike up a conversation, the topic of comparison between the U.S. and Russia will come up. I suspect that his exposure to a communist upbringing, coupled with the new post-U.S.S.R. "democracy", have drastically and irrevocably shaped his world view. In his home country, behind every seemingly good deed is a payoff or a bribe. Everyone is corrupt and looking to make a buck by any means. Things that seem pure and innocent are only fronts for kickbacks, duplicity, and self-serving profit. Given the regular stories of corruption and crime in the local and national news here, he assumes that things are just as bad here in the U.S.. From politicians, to bankers, to landlords, to county officials, to the operator of the local supermarket, everyone is dirty. The only reason that some people don't get any breaks is because they don't have enough money to grease the necessary palms or aren't good looking enough to seduce the right folks.

You know, I count it a blessing that I see the world and the people around me in a more positive light. It seems to me like deep cynicism is a real joy stealer and is a portal from light into inescapable darkness. I'm glad that I don't live in the world that my friend sees through his eyes.