Cynicism is not wisdom

“I’m a professional cynic but my heart’s not in it” – Blur, Country House

Mof Gimmers wrote an interesting response to Everett True’s advice for aspiring music critics and again it affected me very deeply because of all the reasons I got out. I think there are wider questions too, which cut right to the heart of the sort of people we are.

There might be 10 kinds of people when it comes to binary, but cynicism is a sliding scale. Both extremes are painful to witness – either those so bitter you wonder how they get up in the morning, or those so cheerfully deluded it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.

I once heard some great advice: “never mistake cycnicism for wisdom”.

Most of us manage to strike some kind of balance between optimism and cynicism. Wear sunglasses, but pack an umbrella. Do you think most people are basically OK, or that humanity is a cesspool? When you walk into a room, do you assume that you’ll like most of the people in it, and that they’ll like you?

I don’t think that true cynics can be very happy. Mof asserts that if you like the bands and record companies you deal with, they’ll presume you to be a fawning idiot and treat you with contempt.

In some cases, that’s definitely true, and was a contributing factor to my decision to leave. But you know what? F*** those people. It’s not like I go around weeping because X doesn’t like me – but I won’t go out of my way to help them either. They’ll realise that pretty quickly: contempt doesn’t get you very far. The minute you stumble, nobody will reach out to catch you and you’ll land hard in the dirt.

In contrast to that are the people who aren’t cynics. Those who react to kindness with a hug and a smile. When one non-cynic sees another in trouble, they’ll go out of their way to help. There have been hundreds of people over the years who have stuck their neck out for me, gone above and beyond, and really taken time and trouble to help and protect me. I’ve never forgotten that. Just as I have nothing to offer anyone beyond who I am, most of those people now lead very ordinary lives. Occasionally I drop them a line just to see how they’re doing, because who they are as people was always more important to me than the records they made.

I’ve never really understood what there is to be gained from cynicism. It will protect you from humiliation, sure, but who wants to be liked by assholes? If someone won’t respect you because you don’t sneer at the world, then are they worthy of your respect?

If not, why the hell would you waste your time with them anyway?


One comment on “Cynicism is not wisdom

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