Well yeah. I am cynical. It’s nothing I would ever dream of denying. In fact, I take some demented measure of pride in this. Nothing dares transcend the pessimism that cloaks my soul like a storm cloud.
But to accuse society of cynicism, though; that’s a leap which changes the nature of the dialogue.
When leveled at an individual, cynicism is reflective of the word’s true definition. A distrust of another’s motives, the word is centered on our individual perception, not the perception of a group. We can’t speak to others’ distrust as their personal sensory. The individual nature of “cynicism” alters when templated across members of a group or society with hundred, thousands or millions.
Cynicism for the individual is distrust.
Cynicism for the collection is lack of trust.
Trust is intimacy of the spirit and coalescing of expectations. When we share values and priorities with others, our trust is embodied. We innately trust our family most, with trust radiating outwards in weakening waves from this group. The waves of trust recede as they expand and envelope new relations until ultimately they reach the most distant perimeter of our landscape to include exotic strangers in exotic lands. Internet life has thrust us into proximity of reality with these outer circles we never mingled with before. Online trust cannot occur where it never existed.
Our American society is fragmented, a quagmire of global pieces lacking uniformity or cohesion. Human nature is not built to honor such a dissembled cultural mess with trust. If anything, it retorts with cynical expectations. In a society where you expect people to behave contrary to your own values, you aren’t anxious to express unrequited virtue or generosity.
When the charge is brought that “people are too cynical these days” it’s difficult to ascertain what the person is implying. Cynicism, like many social phenomena, is a trait which people use ideologically as a cause-and-effect reason for their belief in [fill in agenda].
I believe cynicism is a function of inevitabilities of technology. Technology has served to “open up” society. It has broken down the historic walls and dissolved the smaller family and village units and turned them into larger municipal and political state units and with the advent of the internet and global real-time wireless communication, a large amorphous global colony of contrasting cultures and values. Emotionally, socially, our evolution does not keep pace with the frantic acceleration of technology and human civilization. Our souls are still mired in social microunits but the impetus of technology is pointing us in the direction of human alien civilizations we nothing about, care nothing about and have little in common with.
Lacking the commonality of expectation with strangers, we retreat and judge behind the shield of cynicism.
So yes, people are cynical. Can you blame them?