Friday, October 05, 2012

Steps taken by a recovering cynic

I recognize, for better or for worse (worse, probably), that I'm too cynical. I also recognize that cynicism isn't a terribly attractive trait. Aside from being flat-out negative, which is a drag, cynics tend to be unhappy, pessimistic and doubtful to the point of being downright paranoid. Who wants to spend time with people like that? I am definitely not only a "glass-half-empty" guy but a "I-knew-somebody-would-come-along-and-drink-half-my-beverage" guy. I can make an effort to curb this kind of thinking and behavior but at some level, it's an issue of internal hard-wiring. I feel like I have made some improvements but it's a daily battle and several things make it difficult to quit it altogether.
I Yam What I Yam!
One area that can really test the resolve of a recovering cynic is politics, especially high-stakes, large scale politics. It's very easy for anybody who's even slightly inclined to be cynical to really come off the rails when the presidential election season gets ramped up.

For example, I think most politicians are liberals or conservatives the way Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman is a Buccaneer. He's a football player, not a pirate. He's not out committing mayhem on the high seas, plundering and pillaging. He just happens to be affiliated with an organization that has adapted aspects of an identity in order to appeal to consumers and sell them something. If circumstances were different, he could just as easily "be" a Saint or a Viking or a Seahawk. 

One thing you can do to mange your cynicism is by adjusting your perspective. For example, it's good to remember that the people who run for office are actually a relatively small part of the political system. There are far more voters than candidates. The drawback there is many more voters means many more morons and few things reinforce the cynic's point of view like the moronic actions of morons. I've made conscious efforts to seek out people of different opinions who aren't idiots and that has been helpful, but there are vocal contingents on both sides who are just straight-up stupid. I'm talking about those who are incapable of accepting any criticism of their views, unwilling to acknowledge the merits of their opponents, while wearing t-shirts with logos on them, waving signs, yelling terrible things at one another. Basically, I still feel like the presidential election is what it would look like if all the banks sponsored a college football bowl game. And as a result, my bigger picture view is that we've stopped evolving, this is a good as we're ever going to get, and that maybe it's time to let another species like dogs or ostriches be in charge for a while.

But I still haven't given up and as such, was looking forward to watching the recent debate between President Obama and Governor Romney (which I did as part of a panel hosted by the Tampa Tribune). Even though I know most political debates go something like this:

MODERATOR: Please detail your energy policy.
CANDIDATE A: Energy. Now that is definitely something. But what I think the public really needs to know is that I am 100% against birth defects. I always have been and I always will be. You can examine my record from the very beginning and you will not find one single instance where I said that I was in favor of birth defects. That is indisputable truth!
CANDIDATE B: Wait a minute, Jim. I'm not in favor of birth defects either.
CANDIDATE A: Oh sure. NOW you say something.
  Which illustrated the single toughest thing about trying not to be cynical: frequently being right.

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