On Cynicism

There’s a story about Sodom.

God was willing to spare that city, whose inhabitants had damned themselves by their lack of hospitality and charity, for the sake of ten righteous.  If ten upright men could be found inside the walls, Sodom would be spared.

Fire and brimstone rained down upon Sodom from heaven and reduced it to glass and cinders.

The story goes that there were nine righteous people in the city of Sodom: Lot and his kin.

The tenth righteous person in Sodom was a beggar woman.  She starved to death in the street, for Sodom’s sin was refusing to help others.

The great Diogenes walked through the streets of Athens at high noon with a lantern in his hand, hoping that by its light he might at last be able to find an honest man.  The people of Athens regarded him, the unwashed homeless madman whose sarcasm bit deep at their self-image, as a stray dog whose barking offended their ears.

Kuon, dog.  Kunikos, dog-like.

Cynics are the barking watch-dogs of humanity.  In the modern world, the positive side of cynicism have been largely forgotten.  Virtue, freedom, equality, a life lived in harmony with nature.  What remains is the frustration with mankind’s follies, and a jaded detachment from humanity.

Cynicism shouldn’t be about standing on the sidelines expecting the worst of everything.  The dog should bark.  “Other dogs bite their enemies,” Diogenes said, “I bite my friends, to save them.”  Howl for truth, bite at lies.  Sniff out the honest men.

We need an active cynicism.

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2 Responses to “On Cynicism”

  1. […] eccentric, cynical (in the good way) and free: That was Diogenes. Wouldst that I had the same courage to bid all this crap in life […]

  2. Antipasties Says:

    If you can take for the time that you can’t take any more,
    And fool the fool with gusto, and lie for the joy of lying
    But not just for the sake of lying;
    And when it comes right down to “the truth”,
    To never be too honest with the truth;

    If you can destroy another man’s treasured beliefs,
    Simply through the subtle use of dissention and dissimulation;
    And deceive those who need deceiving
    Solely with the use of the truth,
    With guile and articulation;

    If you can rip the very heart and soul out of an opponent
    Using just “the verbal”;
    But be magnanimous with friends, but not for nothing
    Except for your own gain,
    And use those closest to you for what they’re worth,
    But no more, or no less;

    If you can come to “the natives” with “words of iron”,
    And a bit of slight of hand for your rivals,
    And with swift ploys full of guile;
    And fight the good fight with steely-eyed determination,
    With a bit of pragmatic “how’s-your-father” on the quiet;

    If you can grab your rivals by the balls on a matter of “true principle”,
    And then go for the sheep-sheers
    In an ecstatic moment of pure whimsy;
    And then still find it all, after all, “tasty, very tasty,” while you’re at it;
    Then yours is the Earth and everything “juicy” in it,
    And – what’s more – you’ll be a man, you little bastard!

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