Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cynicism is not Skepticism

The contemporary definition of a cynic is “A person who is bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous or pessimistic”. Whereas, the definition of a skeptic is “A person who questions the validity, authenticity or truth of something purporting to be factual…”

We never hear of a person’s “healthy” cynicism, but a healthy skepticism is an agreeable quality.

I am admittedly and proudly skeptical. But I take issue with anyone who interprets as cynicism my innate reluctance to blindly follow the herd, to swallow all I see on the network news or to dumbly queue up to be spoon-fed the latest, enlightened corporate dogma. I have a fairly quick mind and a hair-trigger nonsense alarm which goes off every time I hear “To be honest with you…”, “The consensus of opinion seems to be…”, “No strings attached…” or (my personal favorite), “One hundred and ten percent…”

There is no shortage of people and situations in your day-to-day life abundantly deserving of your distrust and contempt; lying politicians, thieving preachers, power-mad warlords, fraud, fakery, starvation, ignorance, bigotry, the avaricious destruction (and destroyers) of our planet. Pick one.

Being a skeptic without being cynical is tricky. For most of us, the difference is the ability to smile and shake your head at the truly ludicrous, while not fearing to raise your voice to protest the truly evil.

Be skeptical of anything that purports to hand you The Truth.

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