Fable | Modern cynic

Diogenes of Sinope is on Waterloo Bridge.

Giles: You dirty hippy! You look like a dirty animal, and you smell like a dirty animal. Why can’t you get a job like normal people? You sit on Waterloo Bridge all day cadging change, but I bet you’ve been to university! You probably voted for Corbyn! Degree in Ethnic Studies, I think! I can almost see your dick, and I think there are lice in your tie-die. Did it always smell like that?

Cynic: It was clean when I picked it up at Camden Lock market. But I don’t need it. I’d just as soon wear nothing, if the cops didn’t give me hassle. These clothes are real pain in the arse to keep clean. But what’s your problem with thrift? Aren’t we in this national financial mess because people couldn’t be economical?

Giles: I suppose so.

Cynic: Why have a go at me when I use less than anybody? I’m more economical than any budget the Tories ever passed.

Giles: Economy? It’s not economy if you can’t be bothered to do the minimum that everybody expects. You’re as good as a beggar. Actually, you’re worse! You have a degree, and you could be working — but you choose to sit on your arse all day causing trouble.

Cynic: So, what does it mean to have a lot or a little? Let’s talk.

Giles: You know, we have the Internet for these stupid debates these days. But you probably don’t even have a smartphone. It’s against your precious ‘principles’ — even the beggars have smartphones now. Oh, bugger it. We might as well talk. I’m meant to be going to Meat + Burger to meet someone off Tinder.

Cynic: But she just sent you a text message with a convoluted excuse?

Giles: She said she lost all her cards, or purse — or something.

Cynic: Yes, I’m sure she ‘lost’ them.

Giles: What was that? I told her I’d pay, but she didn’t want to do that. Bloody feminists. What did you say?

Cynic: Nothing. Just shows that owning property causes trouble. Us cynics don’t have purses or handbags to ‘lose’.

Giles: Hm. You’re a cheeky bugger.

Cynic: Look, I’ve got enough for myself — right?

Giles: I guess.

Cynic: People who don’t have enough are those who have want more than they have, right?

Giles: So?

Cynic: There’s nothing in I need in my life because I have few needs.

Giles: What are you on about?

Cynic: Think about all these grand houses in this city, or even a modest little bedsit. We need it to keep the rain off, right?

Giles: Correct, Sherlock.

Cynic: Good. And we needs jeans, and t-shirts and suits — even crap suits like the one you’re wearing.

Giles: Very funny, but true. We need sex, shelter, and food.

Cynic: Our clothes and houses shelter us.

Giles: Yes.

Cynic: Take a look at these.

Giles: Ugh! Your feet are gross! Put them away!

Cynic: A bit dirty. I don’t wear shoes. But not worse shape than people in fancy trainers — and better than people wearing those stupid high heels.

Giles: I’m not sure about that.

Cynic: Okay. So what’s the point of feet?

Giles: The point of feet? I can see you did a ‘studies’ degree. I have a degree in electrical engineering. What are feet for? You’re daft.

Cynic: Answer me!

Giles: Well, we walk on feet.

Cynic: And how does my walking compare to other people?

Giles: I imagine you sit around all day…I suppose when you actually move your smelly arse you walk about the same.

Cynic: Better in many ways. My barefoot life has made them tough, and I still have all the flexibility of going barefoot.

Giles: The flexibility to get tetanus! But I accept you probably walk as well as me.

Cynic: So, basically, I’m the same as anyone walking over this bridge?

Giles: In this ridiculous respect: yes. I’m starting to think you have a degree in philosophy. This sounds like philosophy. It sounds very stupid, and almost as bad as psychotherapy or some such nonsense.

Cynic: Okay, we’ve done the feet. Look at the rest of me. Do I look worse than anyone else on this bridge?

Giles: Doesn’t seem to be any weaker…you could use an hour or two in the gym, but you’re stronger than Raheem in IT.

Cynic: So again I’m level with the average man on the Waterloo Bridge. And I’m as well fed as anyone — it all depends what turns up in the supermarket dumpster, though.

Giles: Yeah, you probably do better than these people who stuff their faces with crisps.

Cynic: And I haven’t been to the doctors for years. My body is in good condition.

Giles: Good for you. You’d have to wait ages in casualty, anyway.

Cynic: Okay. So you agree with a lot. Why do you call me a dirty hippy?

Giles: Because, we’re living at a time where there are so many opportunities from skydiving to tablet computers and you’re not taking advantage. You just go round sleeping wherever you fancy from parks to the entrance at John Lewis. You drink water from public toilets.

All those people who worked to invent and build this stuff and you ignore it!

All this great stuff around you, and you have to be different. Apparently, you are better than everyone and don’t need a smartphone.

I’m sad when some bloke gets locked up, or dies early and can’t have this stuff — but, you decide not to touch it.


Cynic: Okay, okay. There’s a little truth in that, even if I don’t like it. Think for a sec about a rich bloke who has a huge party — everything laid on from Harrods —

Giles: Caviar.

Cynic: Yes, caviar.

Giles: Never liked it.

Cynic: Well, he laid on something you like — and more besides. Then imagine one guest eats more than his share, and leaves everybody else with hardly anything — even ate so much he threw up. What would you say to that? Is he rational?

Giles: No. He’s an arsehole.

Cynic: Does he have good manners?

Giles: ‘course not.

Cynic: And what if there’s another bloke who eats just as much as he needs?

Giles: Hard to do at parties — people either overeat, or they’re on some diet and don’t eat enough and have to stop for a takeaway on the way home.

Cynic: So, which person is better?

Giles: The guy who eats what he needs.

Cynic: Okay, there you have it. We have all these fine choices: we can have an Apple watch, or a Tesla or whatever — if we work for these. But we should only take what we need otherwise we end up like old greedy guts at the party. Your attitude is like old greedy guts.

You make your life complicated by worrying about all these elaborate pleasures — the latest, the greatest, or something from the most fashionable country…

Giles: Cantonese duck livers are very ‘in’ this year.

Cynic: That’s my point. And what’s worse is you sweat and slave for some arsehole boss to afford all these things — and you don’t even want these things when you’ve had them for five minutes.

We set mates fighting, and families fighting over inheritances — and whole countries fighting over natural resources, for what? For nothing.

And just think about the trouble we get into for sex! All the heartbreak, and murders. And we can satisfy…

Giles: Stop! Don’t go there! Too much information! I don’t want to hear it.

So you’re against sex as well. You’re never going to win people over with that attitude, you stupid arse. Anyway, I though the hippies were for free love?!

Cynic: I’m a cynic not a hippy. You called me a hippy. Anyway, aside from the way you fuck like an animal you also make a fool of yourself running round the office shouting at everyone to show how important you are!

Giles: Tobes from Accounts enjoys a bit of banter.

Cynic: You call it banter, I call it unnecessary showing off!

Giles: HR called it harassment, but that’s another story.

Cynic: The truth is my needs might be like an animal, but an animal is close to god because an animal — like me — has few or no needs.

And god needs nothing at all.

Giles: Oh, you’re going on about god now. You’re in a some cult. This is like Scientology, right? The cynics — how much did it cost to join, weirdo?

Cynic: Nothing at all! And in that respect I’m just like Hercules. He didn’t need anything at all, and he was a god — or the son of a god, or something…

Giles: I don’t watch American Gladiators, or WWF, or MMA— wherever this Hercules guy is from…

Cynic: The fact is that all the cool old dudes didn’t need anything at all. They were real men, with beards…

Giles: Like the hipsters. Are you sure you’re not gay? Is that what the no sex thing is about?…’cause I don’t mind who you fuck.

Cynic: That’s why I let my beard grow out. Pampered, soft flesh is unmanly — a real man has the self-control to limit his needs. The cynic life…

Giles: You could sell this online, you know. ‘These Ten Tricks Will Make You A Manly Cynic’…

Cynic: That’s really not the point. The world is my bed, and I’ll eat like a dog and enjoy it too. To hell with money — all it causes is wars, lies, and murder.

Giles: It caused me to get a very nice apartment in Chiswick, actually. And, anyway, love of money…

Cynic: I don’t look like other people to be sure, but to hell with looking like other people. You dress like a rent boy…

Giles: I don’t know about that!

Cynic: Trust me on this one. And I can live in any condition, but you whine and complain if your broadband stops working!

Giles: That’s bloody annoying! I had a good deal on that!

Cynic: And all that directs you is desire — you’re like a girl! It’s fear, appetites, and pleasure that directs your life — not reason!

You sneered at my tie-die, but I can do what I want in this! I don’t need a uniform. I can talk to anyone. I can go anywhere…

Giles: You can’t have tea in the Ritz, and you wouldn’t get into the Oceania on a Saturday night!

Cynic: What’s Oceania?

Giles: Oh, I forgot — you don’t have sex so you wouldn’t know.

Cynic: I direct my own life. I don’t have my nose up anyone’s arsehole. I don’t have to have fine clothes or look for the right people to talk to. And though you laugh at what I wear I challenge you to go to the British Museum: look at the statues of the gods there, they don’t wear any fancy shirts. They’re more naked than me!

Go on, off you go! The museum is free!

This is an adaptation of Anecdotes of the Cynics.