Thursday, November 4, 2021

You're Allowed Cynical Beliefs But Not Cynical Reactions

Society rewards cynical beliefs and optimistic reactions while at the same time it punishes optimistic beliefs and cynical reactions. 

Consider that a politician is given wide latitude to sow distrust in the system and the powers that be but would be viewed as na├»ve for believing things work by and large pretty well and our default position should be charitable benefit of the doubt. Similarly a politician would be expected to embrace a development as beneficial to his side while being seen as a sour puss or exhibiting sour grapes to downplay a successful event.

This is not just a political phenomenon. CEOs must be grounded realists who only crack a smile when championing an outcome. Otherwise, they should be on the lookout for the next problem. Yet if a problem arises, they get no credit for being dismissive.

Perhaps the biggest exemplification can be found in everyday life where nobody wants to hear about the downside after a positive moment and at the same time nobody wants to hear how it will probably all be okay in the face of fear. Rather one should doubt the future and champion any moment of progress while rejecting hope and brushing aside any consideration that ulterior motives may be at play.

Social media amplifies these truths orders of magnitude due to the network and feedback-amplification effects. 

I am a bit ambivalent on this in general. I both fight and embrace my personal tendency toward cynicism. It can negatively bias one's thought process like a disease, but it can also provide healthy critical analysis. A good journalist has a proper balance in regard to cynicism. They are not a cheerleader for their beat nor a pure curmudgeon. 

We are all and always have been journalists in one way or another to greatly varying degrees of quality. Today's technology makes this more apparent, but it has always been the case. We gather facts, analyze data, and relate stories. Some are better than others and some do it for pay while others do it for pleasure (or shear necessity of living in a society). 

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2021-11-11 Addendum: As a personal example of this, I offer how as a fan of OU football any optimistic outlook I hold is seen as being a “homer”, a derisive label. At the same time a cynical take on the team’s prospects is seen as wise and level-headed. Further, if the team does well, it is widely viewed as uncouth to not give them credit for their success. Even more so, if they do poorly, one is not allowed to point out ways the opponent got lucky, etc.

I do not find these social norms to be desirable, tbs.

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