Some months ago my friend Donna called me a cynic. I suppose I had been being excessively negative, ranting about something or other. I was inclined to feel hurt, until I realized I had absolutely no idea what the word actually means.
I took a poll then and there and no one else in the room seemed to know either. I decided to look it up when I got home and completely forgot all about it. Until a few minutes ago. Some mysterious inner timer went off in my brain and viola! I looked up a definition:
Cynic: a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.
Nope. That's not me. I absolutely believe in altruism and the human potential for disinterested philanthropy and kindness. Duh. A cynic wouldn't have volunteered for the crisis hot line graveyard shift. So there, Donna!
But that got me wondering: what is the opposite of being cynical? I guess it's being naive. Blindly trusting people to do the right thing. Counting on others to be moral, ethical, loving and kind. In other words, not having a whole lot of experience yet.
My folks were a bit naive politically. They just couldn't (or wouldn't) believe that Ronald Reagan would "do something like that". 'Something like that' being the latest verified atrocity burning a hole in my ability to be proud of my country. I don't think I'm all that naive either. Especially not after working in group homes all those years.
Well, there's certainly a lot of room to be cynical about politics these days. Obama gave us some breathing space there, with his lovely promises and inspirational oratory. Was it all a lie? Today he asked for 33 billion dollars more for the war effort in Afghanistan. And, of course, we can't afford a public option.
The problem, as I see it, is that we've created monsters. Real monsters. They are devouring the very earth we live on, and they devour the souls of the people who serve them. And a lot of people serve them. When it comes to corporations, I am very cynical indeed.
You may disagree, but I believe that even the most twisted, cruel and criminally insane human being has some spark of the divine buried inside. But corporations are inhuman. They exist for one purpose and one purpose only: profits. And unless we can find a way to pull the plug, I reckon we're pretty much doomed.
But before Donna calls me fatalistic (though I like that rather better than being called cynical) I'll tell you this: I believe there is hope. People can awaken and have a change of heart. Even people who stoke the corporate furnaces. Even people who make their homes the corporate ladder of success.
Okay, call me naive, I can handle it.