Prices And Values

Is it time to be less cynical?

Photo: Matthias Weinberger

An important thing to remember in these troubled times is to disregard anyone who tells you there is only one way to be, and to constantly question why they are telling you that. When someone tells you not to protest against a certain issue because it will not resonate with the public and there are more important issues to fight for, ask yourself if what they are really trying to tell you is that you should actually be protesting for the thing they are advocating. When someone tells you that you should ignore certain actions because they are just theater and “everyone” knows that they don’t have any significance, ask yourself who “everyone” is and what kind of company that person thinks he is including himself in when he makes that statement. When someone tells you that demonstrations will only antagonize the people who support an immoral law and you are better off relying on the system to resolve things, ask yourself why you shouldn’t tell them to go fuck themselves, and then when the answer is “no reason,” tell them to go fuck themselves.

That said, Leah Finnegan of Leah Letter, which one cultural commentator has called “the best bit of opt-in dyspepsia available these days,” offers this.

How should a person be in the age of Trump? When everything is bad, it’s not mentally helpful to think that the bad things are even worse than they appear. Cynicism can be the lye to the grease of neoliberalism, but under schizophrenic despots with fascist tendencies, it doesn’t effectively function as an antidote to the absurd, dangerous, or terrifying…. The director Errol Morris tweeted yesterday: “I’m disappointed in myself. I like to think of myself as a cynical person. But it turns out I’m wrong. I care deeply and am horrified.” My mode of coping with the world must change because there is no other option.

You are still allowed to be cynical — frankly, who could stop you? — but it is not a bad idea to think about some of the things said here. You are certainly capable of toggling back and forth between cynicism and sincerity as necessary. Both are going to be very important over the next few years.

What is going on?