Why I am a Cynical Idealist
When seemingly conflicting concepts align.
I hate humanity. That’s the conclusion I reached one day. It was to explain my incalculably enraged frustration with the state of the world.
I hate humanity. I must, I mean why else would I walk around scoffing, huffing, and puffing at everything and everyone around me that fail to meet my definition of what is right?
At some point, I found myself ushering in adulthood with a bitterly sarcastic, deeply disappointed, borderline pessimistic self.
Love? I don’t need a debate team to churn out philosophically correct arguments about how real love is possibly not possible. Progress? There aren’t nearly enough people on this planet fighting to make a change so, you know, truly grand progress might never happen. And politics? Yeah, fuck politics.
I wasn’t always this cynical. I didn’t decide to adopt cynicism, it grew on me. More specifically, it grew from my idealism.
I’ve always taken pride in my sense of right and wrong. I took shelter in it too. I wore it like a black and white armor to fight off all the greys life consistently tried to shove down my throat.
But slowly and surely, my armor started to crack. I should’ve known it was made of glass, because before I knew it they were everywhere. The more I grew up, the more the wrongs multiplied and the rights dwindled. And I loathed it. I loathed every minute of it.
The truth is, I don’t hate humanity. I hate humanity’s dishonesty. I hate humanity’s hypocrisy. I hate humanity’s reprehensible corruption of the essence of humanity.
I often felt like I was walking with the weight of my unapologetic idealism on my shoulders. On some days, the load was too heavy and I fell flat on my face.
Ernest Hemingway said: “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
With Hemingway’s wisdom in mind, I realized that cynicism is perhaps the only natural response to the virtue of idealism. On the road from idealism to cynicism, there’s an all too familiar stop: Pain.
Idealists living in a broken world are doomed to be wounded. Cynicism offers protection. It allows us to survive, to laugh at the chaotic mess, instead of weep at its feet.
How do I react when I come face to face with climate change deniers? I bring out the sneering sarcasm and go on about how things are probably never going to change. Then I tell myself that I should therefore not dwell on it too much.
That’s instead of allowing myself to feel the pain that rapidly engulfs me whenever I think about the slow and painful demise of our blameless planet. It hurts. Cynicism is a coping mechanism.
However, that doesn’t mean that cynicism replaces or erases idealism. No. Somehow, they coexist effortlessly. The pain is still there, the ideals as strong as ever. The cynical self is merely a survival method for the idealistic self.
It’s my armor now. And you know what? It’s much less breakable than my previous one.