on cynicism

December 15, 2008 § 1 Comment

so today i was thinking about being called ‘cynical’.  and about the Cynics.  the Cynics were a school, a tradition in ancient greek philosophy that i do feel akin to.

to quote wikipedia:

They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society.

It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarised as follows:[7][8]

  1. The goal of life is happiness which is to live in agreement with Nature.
  2. Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude.
  3. Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of Virtue.
  4. The road to virtue is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which have no value in Nature.
  5. Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character.

wikipedia goes on to say:

None of this meant that the Cynic would retreat from society, far from it, Cynics would live in the full glare of the public’s gaze and would be quite indifferent in the face of any insults which might result from their unconventional behaviour. The Cynics are said to have invented the idea of cosmopolitanism: when he was asked where he came from, Diogenes replied that he was “a citizen of the world, (kosmopolitês).”[11]

seems to me like we could use a few more cynics in the world, not a few less.

now i dont adhere to the cynic philosophy.  i have many problems with their ontological understanding of ‘nature’, their extreme individualism and emphasis on self-sufficiency, and  their definition of suffering.  but i appreciate the fact that they preached that the world belonged to everyone, and saw themselves as citizens of the world.  and that they didnt retreat from society, but vigorously engaged it.  it was a philosophy that gained the most followers during the times when greece and rome became empires and people felt that an essential sense of freedom had been lost.

i also wrote this today:

i dont think that there is anything like
a bloodless revolution.  the blood has already been spilled.  is being
spilled as we speak.  frankly, i am not an idealist.  the colonizer
normally wins.  this earth is being destroyed.  a plucky band of
outsiders is not going to save it.  i used to wish that i could just
ignore this reality.  deal with the cognitive dissonance (what i want
to be true vs what i see to be true) in a more self-preserving mode.
but now, i just…i guess realized that this is a fight. and i dont
have the choice to sit outside of the fight.  so i have to choose a
side.  or else someone will choose it for me.  and some people choose
to be on the side of the winners.  i choose to be on the side of
freedom and love.  maybe it would be more accurate to say: i think we
will lose first,then the masters will destroy themselves, destroy this
earth, destroy life.  they will fight til the very last bloody one of
maybe those of us who are left will be able to build something
beautiful out of the rubble…hopefully.  humans are incredibly
adaptable and creative.
hmmm…that is the first time i have been able to articulate that so
i can see why others think i am cynical.  but i fight for a freedom
that i have never experienced.

and then today i found the blog: generation y. (that link is for the english version)  wow.  yoani sanchez is an immaculate writer.  and even though she lives in cuba and i live here (in chicago) i felt a kinship with her.  she writes:

While preparing extensive reports on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, few ask themselves if the celebration is the birthday of a living creature, or simply the anniversary of something that happened.  Revolutions don’t last half a century I advise those who ask me.  They end up devouring and excreting themselves in authoritarianism, control and immobility.  They always expire, trying to make themselves eternal.  They die because they want to remain unchanged….

I met her corpse, they say.   In 1975, the year I was born, Sovietization had erased all spontaneity and nothing remained of the rebellion that the older people remembered.  We had neither long hair nor euphoria, but rather purges, double standards and denunciations.  The devotional artifacts to those who had fallen in the mountains were already banned and those soldiers of the Sierra Maestra had become addicted to power.

this is how i feel.  when i am here in this city and i dont want to look at the young boys getting a lil roughed up by the police as i walk.  that for all of our promises of freedom and democracy, all of the change that is yet to come, can i help but remember how many politicians ran on the platform of ‘change’ in my lifetime?  can i look out my window and see that the changes have not been to more freedom or community or love, but to those who have power now have even more?  frankly i love the story of the cuban revolution.  the story of the zapatista revolution.  the story of the first intifada. the move community.  i love the beginnings of those stories.  tell me that bedtime story of when people believed so badly that they actually did something.  when communities, women, children, the elderly became lightning creative and decided to take back their world.  tell me the story of revolution.

the che movie is out.  no, i have never owned a che shirt, or even a poster, or a pair of earrings with his silhouette.  but his story is one that puts me to sleep when i am having insomnia.  lets me feel safer in this imperial world.  that in this diverse universe he too is a possibility.  i read a critique of the movie that said it was a hagiography.  i am okay with that.  saints aren’t perfect.  but they are.

even though i dont vote.  i thought that this piece was…i dont have the words…

I’d love to choose

For weeks, there are words like “ballot box,” “votes,” and “candidates” that persecute us everywhere.  First there were the elections in the United States and now the issue has been revived with what happened on Sunday in Venezuela.  It’s as if at the end of the year everything conspires to remind us of our condition as non-electors, our limited experience in deciding who leads us.You become accustomed to not being able to choose what to put in your mouth, under which creed they will educate your children, or to whom to open the door, but that resignation shatters when you see someone else vote.  Because of this it has risen up, these days, the desire to fold the ballot, to push it into the slot and to know that with it goes my stentorian shout that demands: “to choose.”


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§ One Response to on cynicism

  • nikos says:

    When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes the cynic in Corinth, he was inside his vessel. In the demand of the young king him to come out to meet
    him he responded the king better to move further because covering the sun. This is the essence of cynicism.

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