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Naive cynicism

ksinger

Ideal_Rock
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Jan 30, 2008
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5,078
Truly, I hate it when I’ve been mulling around an observation in my head, and trying to compose the best way to write it out, and I come across someone who made the same observation, and stated it more eloquently than I could with a thousand years to work it out. It’s like, damn, no one will ever believe I came to that on my own. They’ll think I’m taking my stances whole from someone else. Poop.

But one must soldier on even so.

The piece linked below is by Rebecca Solnit, she of “Men Explain Things To Me”. I’ve not read any of her books, but that essay put her on my map as seriously worth reading.

It’s about cynicism, or as she calls it “naive cynicism”, which is a theme in our current political threads, with people expressing high levels of concern for their personal purity, how all politicians are crooks, anyone who gets into politics will inevitably become a crook, no party is good enough, no candidate is good enough, everything sucks, and we’re all gonna die. Or something along those lines anyway.

The entire piece is bloody brilliant IMO, but page 2 and 6 are the ones that I most wish I could have written.

http://harpers.org/archive/2016/05/the-habits-of-highly-cynical-people/6/
 

kenny

Super_Ideal_Rock
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28,154
I am deeply cynical about politicians.
I feel I'm not in the group that is naive.
 

CJ2008

Ideal_Rock
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Dec 31, 2006
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I wish I was smarter.

That said, I'm glad I did not recognize myself or my attitudes in how she describes "naive cynicism".

I love the attitude/point of view that solutions don't have to be "perfect" to have positive outcomes, and that some positive outcomes can be significant even if they're "small".

I don't participate much in politics though - but the above attitude is central to my personality in how I approach things.

But I can see how it might be harder to apply and maintain that attitude in politics because politics "feel" so far reaching - environmental issues etc. are so far reaching and huge - I can see how it would make me feel helpless if say one candidate or action would do 5 things that were positive but I had to take that with another 3 things that in my mind, weren't positive. ETA I can see how it would paralyze me and cause me to do nothing or not want to vote for any candidate.

It's a little scary to post here because I realize that by all of the above I'm showing I'm not super intelligent or eloquent (although I'm sure I've shown it way before this thread :D) but I hope what I'm saying applies. It makes sense to me at least. ::)
 

Matata

Ideal_Rock
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Sep 10, 2003
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Great article, thanks for posting it. She hit the nail on the head through the notion that one abdicates personal responsibility through the practice of naive cynicism. One also abdicates personal power. Ironic and frightening.
 

missy

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Karen, thank you for sharing this piece by Rebecca Solnit. It gives me a renewed sense of energy and hope. At times I can be cynical and see things in absolutes and I know that is not helpful. There is a useful and responsible way to be critical that allows for positive change and hope and optimism in our future. Thank you. I especially loved this part.


What is the alternative to naïve cynicism? An active response to what arises, a recognition that we often don’t know what is going to happen ahead of time, and an acceptance that whatever takes place will usually be a mixture of blessings and curses. Such an attitude is bolstered by historical memory, by accounts of indirect consequences, unanticipated cataclysms and victories, cumulative effects, and long timelines. Naïve cynicism loves itself more than the world; it defends itself in lieu of the world. I’m interested in the people who love the world more, and in what they have to tell us, which varies from day to day, subject to subject. Because what we do begins with what we believe we can do. It begins with being open to the possibilities and interested in the complexities.
 

MissGotRocks

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Jun 23, 2005
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12,183
An excellent article. I think we all have to stop, think and educate ourselves about issues over and over instead of going to our comfortable bias and certainty. A good reminder for us all!
 

arkieb1

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I like the last paragraph that is what resonates with me;

"What is the alternative to naïve cynicism? An active response to what arises, a recognition that we often don’t know what is going to happen ahead of time, and an acceptance that whatever takes place will usually be a mixture of blessings and curses. Such an attitude is bolstered by historical memory, by accounts of indirect consequences, unanticipated cataclysms and victories, cumulative effects, and long timelines. Naïve cynicism loves itself more than the world; it defends itself in lieu of the world. I’m interested in the people who love the world more, and in what they have to tell us, which varies from day to day, subject to subject. Because what we do begins with what we believe we can do. It begins with being open to the possibilities and interested in the complexities."
 

ksinger

Ideal_Rock
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Jan 30, 2008
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Glad you guys liked it. I would have quoted something, but as I said, there were just too many things that resonated with me to whittle it down, and I'm sure there's a good reason or two to not post an entire copyrighted piece, so...

On any subsequent reading, I find myself liking one bit over another, and today I'm liking the parts about incremental change. I think of the ACA as a good example of that. We are the generations who are witnessing the birth pangs of single payer in this country, and yeah, it hurts, and there are stumbles, and it is upsetting the status quo. But there were similar messy birth pangs when SS was enacted, and we kept plugging with the many subsequent incremental changes that resulted in what we have today. And I am going to have to avail myself of that mature system, like..right now, unfortunately. I am grateful that over decades, people didn't give up on the program that is now SS. I'm grateful that we were willing to engage in incremental change instead of throwing up our hands a declaring it a failure because it wasn't perfect on the first iteration.
 
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