Friday, November 08, 2013

Cynicism, thy name is us.

I give you the lede from a front-page article in today's edition of my local paper, the Morning Call:

Walking a delicate tightrope of not alienating his conservative base but needing to endear himself to Pennsylvania's more moderate electorate, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey voted for a historic gay rights bill Thursday.
Note the reporter's spin: Toomey is taking this stand for pure political advantage; after all, it's absolutely beyond imagining, inconceivable, that the Republican senator (or anyone in public life, for that matter) could be doing something (which is to say, anything) just because he believes it's the appropriate thing to do, right? He must be pandering or jockeying for position: walking a delicate tightrope, in Toomey's case.

This cynicism infects all public discourse nowadays and, in fact, all of contemporary interpersonal life. We naturally assume that people are simply talking to talk: trying to win the debate or improve their respective position somehow. We assume that no one is a man or woman of principle and/or sincerity. Pay attention over the next week: See how many times you hear people (maybe even yourself?) ascribe someone else's behavior to covert, self-seeking motives. See how many times you hear people disregard the obvious explanation (i.e. that someone is saying what s/he really thinks) in proposing a more venal rationale for what was said or done. Of course, we see this same mentality on display in all the punditry on all the nightly political shows, we hear it all day long on talk-radio, and we will probably indulge in some form of it with other adult family members in a few weeks, as we pass the turkey plate and stuffing bowl around the table on Thanksgiving.

I, for one, am not thankful for this development. Is it what we really have come to believe? That no one else believes? Very sad. 

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