We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, May 26. 2007
Post-modernism is the idea that everything is just an affectation, and so you can pull it apart and make little jokes out of the bits. I reject the approach, and not just in architecture. The problem with the Daily Show and Colbert is not that they are smarmy wags, it's that they derive their smugness from making fun of a establishment that no longer exists, if it ever did. Yes, everything sucks. But I hate to break it to you: You're the everything now.
The proprietor of Sippican Cottage
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
I agree with Sippican. I can almost remember beginning to encounter something--somewhere around 10 or 12 yrs old--that bothered me. it wasn't much of anything that I could put my finger, I just remember that some people sometimes had this attitude that made everything seem like a fraud, a trick, a conspiracy. I know now that I was encountering "cynicism". Odd thing, as a kid, you want to be just as "knowing" as the cynics, and yes it does create a certain downward spiral in some parts of the spirit.
Kind of a shock, if you drift back and recollect it. Cynicism be de Debbil's dialect --it push you out of the Garden befo you even knows it.
Me, too. I got it from my older sister all the time, and it always made me feel small.
I don't like cynics. But I love a good satirist. They make you part of what they're talking about; make you share a common fate. Cynics marginalize by a 'sophisticated' pseudo-coolness of knowing.
Lots of libertarians are cynics. Their 'god' is Mencken - a dolt with a gift for wordsmithing. Andy Rooney. I had to change the channel. He made me ill.
It's really a form of selfishness, maybe. "I will NOT be fooled!"
Maybe. But I think the "I will NOT be fooled" is really fear.
Well shit, where does that leave me. I've been cynical since age 5 or so. Bad childhood I guess, which it was. Fear isn't it, more like reality knocking your d*** in the dirt.
I suggest that there are two distinctions between cynicism and sarcasm. One is a coward's way, the other is the the self (or one's community) effacing humor of someone with hope.
AP, I'm stupid. Can you flesh out your last? I don't see cynicism, necessarily, as cowardice. Nor do I see sarcasm, necessarily, as bravery. I do see an odd mixture between the two.
I think you believe that people can suffer and flourish. You have demonstrated that empathy many times in your writing. That belief is the foundation of our morality and the awareness that kindness can bring out the best in people. Cynics don't care about this as they use their irony for cheap purposes that are meant to demean others. I do believe it is a defense mechanism that quickly becomes habit.
Sarcasm can be extremely cruel like cynicism, but usually it is used for humor - not to denigrate the spirit like cynicism. Sarcasm is usually a quick quip while cynicism is a lifestyle attitude to hide a cheap, morose character.
I also believe that intelligent people who have experienced the dark side of life and the absurd side of life have a natural cynicism. But they don't project it in any way to hurt others.
You just said everything I was going to say only you said it better than I would have. Most on the Left have this hope that the victim of their criticism crashes and burns. Their main intent is to destroy.
On the other hand someone like Rush has more of a good natured approach to his humor, hopeing that the target sees the folly of their position and posibly effects change in that person.
I have heard him on many occassions say that he has no hate for anyone on the personal level. That cannot be said for many of his opponents on the Left.
Oh dear, because this is the weekend to remember; this post has prompted me to remember Jonathan Winters--with a big smile!
Thank you Phoenix for the very good explanation of what I was trying to say. A quick search of wikipedia of both sarcasm, and cynicism will help to clarify the difference a lttle bit. Cynicism originates from a form of rhetoric the Greeks acknowledge has having a cruel side, where as sarcasm was conidered to be a very simple self sacrificing form of a life style.
Thanks to all for responding. Heading out for a day of activities that precludes a thoughtful response for now. Back later.
Thanks to AP's tip re wiki I have refreshed my memory a bit re the Cynics.
I do believe in the basic goodness of the individual. I also believe that in some individuals there is no good. I suppose in that sense I hold with the original cynics who, according to wiki, held "the absolute responsibility of the individual as the moral unit." Yes, we all need assistance, received in various ways, for guidance and help in being that 'moral' individual. The post is pointing out, I think, the abrogation of that 'absolute responsibility' by those who hold the post modernist view.
In an existential sense I'm not sure I agree with this... "making fun of a establishment that no longer exists, if it ever did"... from the post. I think there have always been (including pre-history) those who have held too a higher moral order, who have served as examples of a 'moral' life. Of course this does not constitute an 'establishment' in and of itself except in a 'meme' sense. But without it, even nebulously, would we be where we are now?
I guess I'm trying to say that cynicism in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, at least in as far as it was conceived by the originators. It can actually be helpful in our journey through life. Kind of a "the buck stops here" centering.
Re "suffer and flourish." Yes, you are correct, I do certainly hold that view. I really don't see how any rational person could not. I am a great believer in the "Golden Rule." Too excess on occasion. I also agree with your "natural cynicism" and in not "projecting" it so as too hurt others. It is best used as an internal referent.
A person can be a cynic, and also recognize how corrosive to others can be its expression. This is a 'good' cynic, one who uses the dark outlook for only for humor, and in light dollops.
...but no one would identify him as a cynic, as the act of attaching meaning to other's feelings is not a cynical act. Maybe there's an optimistic cynic, as well as the familiar pessimistic cynic. What would an optimistic cynic be all about?
I would be Candide without my capacity for cynicism - in the ordinary, non-philosphical, soemtimes-perjorative sense of the word. Only a person with a non-paranoid attentiveness to the dark side of people can understand human behavior.
Yeh, me too I'm afraid. Always astonished at love, generosity & altruism. Myself, I have to fake it. At heart I'm a reptile.
Said well BD. Though "non-paranoid" gives me thought. My heart is always open but my brain stands watch. Haven't learned any other way, I guess.
BL, same problem here, I guess, that cold blood gets harder too pump over the years, doesn't it? :-) I think I am an optimistic cynic, good triumphs over evil most ever day, even when we do not recognize it for such. Else, once again, how we be here?
"Only a person with a non-paranoid attentiveness to the dark side of people can understand human behavior."
Well said, Bird Dog. It's true. I don't think dense people are capable of cynicism. It does take an understanding of the dark side of human behavior to become a cynic. Probably way over half of us are cynical as anything on particular issues. It doesn't mean a thing but that we are aware. If we give up hope, then we're done for.
My best friends tend to be cynical. But they're funny and only poke at the absurd in life. Who doesn't laugh at that? You have to.
"My heart is always open but my brain stands watch."
You have it down, Luther.
Yeh --that's a pretty fine sentence (and thought), LM.
Maybe the term "postmodernism" is a euphemism for the less lofty "cynicism".
I'm probably off-base academic-term-wise, but it seems like "modernism" was hopeful & optimistc, associated with great progress in almost every field of human endeavor.
But when Evil tooks its pound of this new flesh, it became world war. War on the industrial scale (or maybe just the way 20th century fascists fought it) took the romanticism out of humanity's self-image, and made modernism into "postmodernism".
But the age of cynicism is pretty bleak, spiritually. So wherever we are, it's no good place to stop yet.
And stop I won't Buddy, at least until that first shovel full lands on my face. Though I think I must be misunderstanding the origin, and basis, of cynicism. Dare I equate it with 'doubt?" Which I find a natural and normal thing. What am I missing here? I just can't connect with what y'all are saying about it compared to what it originally was. Is my lack of edumacation showing?