Humbug

January 4, 2005

I’m becoming cynical.

Oh and wouldn’t you know it, just as I’m about to declare myself a misanthrope the postman comes and brings me not one but two Christmas packages. (One was so late that he said my aunt could get her money back.) Well, people still suck but, heart softened, I will amend my opinion somewhat.

So, here’s what I’ve noticed that is bringing me down a little. People like strength and tend to attack or at least avoid weakness. I’m not excluding myself here, I hate to admit, and if you are excluding yourself as you read, just think about the people you like. Aren’t you attracted to confidence (real confidence, not covering up bravado,) as opposed to social weaklings with no social skills? And if you are kind to those broken winged birds, (I am,) wouldn’t you still rather be seen with the more normal people that you know? (I would.) Then there’s greed. I’ve been thunderstruck in these last four years by what lengths people will go to because they are greedy. I had never given it much thought as an evil before I’d seen it result in murder and torture. Oh and there’s more, of course there are really awful people who do horrible things, but they have the comfort of seeming like an anomaly. The hen pecking [you know, how hens peck out the eyes of weaker birds] I’ve finally woken up to seems to be ubiquitous.

I’ve had such faith in humans and have been such a champion of them. Now I’m turning into an old Mark Twain. Alright, so I promised I would amend this cynicism somewhat and here it is. While I think all the above is true, it is also true that humans can choose to be kind and good and that many have and do. The Dali Lama thinks that people’s core nature is compassion. I will give us this: it feels good to be compassionate and kind, therefore it must be in our structure somehow. So… I will not abandon my life’s work of making life better and happier for humans. (Aren’t you relieved?) But, I will continue my practice of appreciation, which makes me notice what people are really like here and now, and I will be wary of the humans, revealing my vulnerabilities cautiously, because many of them can only be trusted so far. Stupid humans.

Addendum:
Here are more examples of people’s tendency to attack (in one way or another) weaker people. (For the cynic in your life.) The first example is well known: most kids will be mean to the weakest (bodily, mentally, emotionally) kid. “Kids can be cruel.”
Then there’s the “blame the victim” mentality that so often accompanies crime, especially rape. This tendency usually has to be educated out of people. It’s a protective psychological reaction based on fear. Here’s the psychological logic: a person hears about a horrific crime and is terrified it could happen to them (or someone they love.) So, somewhere in their mind they say, “This never would have happened if the victim didn’t do such and such. I never do such and such, therefore, this couldn’t happen to me.”
The last time I saw this happen was in Utah when Elizabeth Smart got kidnapped for months. People who would never blame a rape victim were saying, “She went with him because she was trained to be obedient. That would never happen to a street smart kid who hadn’t been raised in a church where she was trained to be obedient.” Well, if it helps you sleep better at night… The truth, of course, is that strong grown men trained to resist torture are still subject to the Stockholm syndrome. It’s more the sharpness of the knife than the toughness of the hand that determines the depth of the cut, but that makes the world a kind of scary place. Maybe I can forgive humans for their stupid cruelty after all.

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