from The Worldview Literacy Book   copyright 2009            back to worldview theme(s) #36


#36A: Those embracing "Cynicism" have a very negative, culturally pessimistic view of people and human nature. What can justify such a view?  Consider answers on three levels:          1) individual, 2) national and 3) human species.

     1) Imagine you've suffered repeated blows in the School of Hard Knocks; lost "Belief in a Personal God" after repeated appeals through prayer are met with silence; often been on the short end of "The Golden Rule"; had "Bitterness & Vengeance" directed your way; been bloodied by predators' claws in the economic jungle; been lied to, cheated, threatened, let down and pushed around, finally concluding: the people—no!  Reaching a point where the only faith you have left is in yourself, you be-come incredibly self-reliant!  Then you make a mistake.  Believing you're a good person with a good conscience, you put that verdict to a test.  Slowly evidence of your hypocrisy grows, as does your guilt (Figure #36a).  You're left with only one viable alternative: to laugh at the folly of human beings!

     2) Imagine you've grown up hearing and believing that your country —the United States of America—is exceptional. "We are the good guys, superior to other people!" "God is on our side!" "We are God's shining city on a hill!" "We are man-kind's best hope: the land of the free!"  After decades of trying to live the American Dream and watching America on the world stage, you now think of the USA much differently: as a nation of overstuffed adults (34% are obese), living in huge houses (McMansions), driving huge, gas-guzzling vehicles (SUVs), of grabbers with but 4.5% of the world's population using 25% of its resources.  You've come to believe America's real motto isn't what's on its currency "In God We Trust," but rather "Greed is Good."  You think shopping is its real religion  and, duped into believing they are the world's freest people, Americans actually are slaves to their jobs!  Why?  Because of massive debt: they have mastercarded their futures.  Why?  Because they're prisoners of consumption: addicted by corporate-sponsored media pushers—the same people who give them lobbyists, political campaign contributions, and the best government money can buy.

     A nation of law and order?  It seems the law is on the side of those who can pay lawyers—who typically charge $hundreds per hour!  Those with just cause but little money are no match for fat cat lawyers and their wealthy clients.  Their typical game plan is to muddy the legal waters and drive up the poorer folks' legal expenses so that their desire for justice retreats as their bankruptcy prospects advance!  At least those folks put up a battle: many just go meekly to prison.  Indeed, the land of the free has the highest per capita prison population of any nation.

    America's foreign policy?  People elsewhere see the USA as either an imperialistic corporate state seeking to McDonaldize the rest of the world, or the big kid on the block: a bully.





Many believe that if this bully wasn't so intimidating he would be prosecuted for war crimes in places like Vietnam and Iraq by the international community—which, the USA, by being the only industrialized nation not to sign to the Kyoto agreement and control its greenhouse gases, gave the middle finger to!      

     3) Imagine the year is 1969 and the whole species is on trial!  In a courtroom, historian Barbara Tuchman is reflecting on the 20th century.  After recalling her The Guns of August book about the tragic folly of World War I, she notes, "Barely twenty years after the most terrible experience mankind as a whole ever suffered...we went at it all over again!"  She asks, "How could it happen?"  This, she charges, is "the most damaging testimony against man that the recording angel will have to bring."  Pausing, she suggests (in Practicing History) that one day "ruin of our environment...may earn a blacker mark!"

     Fast forward to late 2007.  Al Gore—after winning the USA national popular vote in the 2000 election, and being denied the presidency by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court vote along party lines—wins the Nobel Prize for his efforts promoting An Inconvenient Truth about the threat to global climate posed by greenhouse gases.  Earlier in the year, after voicing his fears that humanity has less than ten years to change its behavior and save the planet, he lamented, "The planet is in distress and all of the attention is on Paris Hilton!"  Cynics fear that faced with this scary gap between expectations for a bright future and environmental realities, humanity will be overwhelmed, fail to meaningfully act, and only laugh!  The result could be its extinction.

Some might say that human history began with original sin, and will end with environmental sin!

#36B: Cynics could attempt to restore balance to their unrealistic black and white depiction of the world in negatives by looking on the bright side: at everything good about themselves, nations like the USA (see Figure #37a), and in human nature. Instead, many turn to "Conspiracism." They believe that increasingly the human experience is shaped by evildoers who band together and work behind the scenes to carry out plots to subvert the will of the people and hurt society.  Often conspiracist's charges turn out to be short on facts or logic, and long on simplistically placing blame on scapegoats and convenient targets.  They believe businesses are everywhere in collusion, scientists are bad guys suppressing pseudoscientists' work, etc.  Figure #36b recalls notable conspiracy theories of recent years.  Their critics feel they are paranoid.  But, note: a few conspiracy theories have turned out to be validated by the facts!

Figure #36a: Hypocrisy & Guilt

hypocrisy = beliefs (or ideals) — actions

 guilt = conscientious behavior — actual behavior

Figure #36b: Examples of Conspiracy Theories Popular in Recent Years

government coverup hides evidence of extra-terrestrial visits:  UFOs, the "face" on Mars, etc.

many, including government officials, plotted to kill President Kennedy—not just Lee Oswald

oil companies block building cars (or technologies) that get very high gas mileage (> 200 mi / gal)

big multi-national corporations—with U.S. government help—plan to take over the world

the powerful plot to usher in "The New World Order"—a world government

NASA faked the lunar landing program or the Soviets faked their manned space program

scientists and environmentalists have made up or exaggerated the global warming problem

9/11/2001 events were allowed to happen so that U.S. government could launch war on terror

Jewish bankers, financiers (or the Rockefeller family) actually run the United States economy

oil companies promote the idea that Earth is running out of oil so as to keep prices high

evidence of demise of ancient, advanced civilization of Atlantis  (in Bermuda triangle) suppressed

scientists have suppressed evidence establishing that some have psychic powers


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