Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cynicism and Skepticism

I think the distinction is fine, but important. Let me start out with the dictionary:

Cynicism: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of other.

Skepticism: An attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.

A cynic, I think, is someone who thinks everyone has an agenda. Cynicism means the only reason anyone feels moved or hopeful is because she's a dumbass. Cynicism disbelieves in purity. Cynicism is easy, it frees you from any responsibility for making things better because nothing can ever be good.

Skepticism, on the other hand, means we've been burned before (I did not have sex with that woman.... GOD. That still makes me want to punch a wall), and so we pay attention and hold our handsome new president's feet to the motherfucking fire.

Yesterday, when Barack Obama said...

those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old, these things are true

I believed that. And, even more importantly, I believe that he believed that. But I also recognize that the responsibility for adhering to those things, and for insisting that we as a nation adhere to those things, falls on all of us equally.