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Cynicism: More Dangerous than Psychopathology

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Originally Published on OpEdNews

I have never been a big fan of cynicism primarily because bipolar dysfunction renders a person prone to all manner of addictions. For example, the vast majority of especially obnoxious alcoholics are bipolars who haven't been correctly diagnosed and, to be truthful, require to be treated for their underlying condition if they stand better than a ten or fifteen percent chance of success with any alcohol treatment program. Personally, my kryptonite is Bailey's Irish Cream, but for good measure I keep no liquor at home. A smoker who loved every cigarette, I quit smoking only five years ago. Discretion is the better part of mental health as of valor.

Cynicism is no less addictive for those disposed to it -- and for others who come to the state through dejection, rejection or hopelessness -- than gambling or drugs. We've all had experience with someone who habitually complains, bitches or criticizes. Like a kleptomaniac, the lure of undeserved psychic reward, even for trashing or lashing out, can be all but irresistible. Plaintiveness on steroids, cynicism delivers the same comforts and satisfactions as any other addiction. The best parallel is actually "contempt" -- ridicule on steroids. Observable behaviors such as cat-calling, evident derision and overt efforts to maintain distance fall away to be replaced by silent, and frequently unobserved brooding. Contempt, because internalized, rarely offers a calling card. For the same reasons, neither does cynicism.

Suddenly and shockingly, seemingly from nowhere, outrage provokes outward and dangerous behavior. Psychopaths are marked by egregious contempt for whole categories of humanity. However hidden the contempt, they can't avoid it; and because they find it satisfying, they often willfully choose not to avoid it. Psychopaths are, not surprisingly,  every bit as cynical as they are contemning. What induces cynicism can easily become the trigger for a contempt-led outburst of militant behavior. Nothing here is rocket science. A trapped scared dog attacks. Cynicism entraps hope and optimism, replacing them with contempt which, given provocation, lashes out, projected at the source(s) of cynicism. We only learn from experience what to look for, those signs bespeaking the potential for mischief.

Normals are perfectly capable of cynicism of a lesser strain, one that is more damaging than the hard core variation. The reason?--there is but a handful of militant psychopaths, whereas many millions of marginally cynical people manage to achieve, however inadvertently, far more damage to society than the collected sprees of all the psychopaths in our midst.

Much of what we interpret as apathy is actually rooted in cynicism. While apathy adequately describes what is apparent, we are fooled by what is not. Apathy is passive whereas contempt is active, at first mentally, then outwardly. More to the point, apathy is more a matter of not caring, whereas cynicism derives from a sincere caring that, whether or not previously apparent, meets with persistent frustration. Another foil by which we fail to see the real source of damage is the charming and honest visage of scoundrels who hide from view a deep contempt for sorry saps (as they perceive those who would fall for their ruses), whereby their victims are nonplussed to discovery they have been swindled, - la Bernie Madoff. The inveterate members of this troupe are in fact bipolars, already disposed to both contempt and cynicism.

Even the indefatigable isolated scholar is not immune: a law book publisher emails the author of a paper titled "Common Denominators in White Collar Crime". The editor requests reprint permission, adding that the paper is to be included in a collection on the topic of white collar crime, the apparent interest being the demonstration of a bipolar linkage with conduct leading to the named crimes. Once, however, they saw that the author wasn't in the clique of professional lawyers, there was no further contact. A law school journal (focusing on religious elements) contacted the same writer, showing interest in a paper linking concepts of office and stewardship with the teaching of Jesus. Once they, too, discovered the author was not an academic, there was no further contact.

Despite evident merit, scholarship has no commercial marketability and thus no real prayer of exposure except through publishers specializing in it. How can one imagine, once realizing that the only outlet for one's work is a closed shop where independents are clearly off limits, that this is anything but an open invitation to contempt and cynicism that will require considerable moral strength to defend against? When that writer tried to enlist other independents to mass their efforts and lobby for a change, there was not only no interest, but negative interest--cynicism, pure and simple. Not apathy, for it is not laziness but rather frustration and dejection that so dampens prospects of success as to motivate those most able to benefit from a change in policy to reject involvement in effecting that very change.

Republicans privately point to the low moral caliber of urban black males (often also implying intellectual deficiency) who engage in drugs, larceny and all else that mars their families and communities, never willing to be mindful that their own economic policies created the conditions from which frustration and dejection, mediated by contempt and cynicism (but cynicism most of all) prompt all of these negative behaviors. The bastions of moral purity also enjoy denying that bipolar dysfunction typically follows from the kinds of stresses and exposures typifying ghettos and which therefore viciously augments that same cynicism and its results. Thus while a healthy swath of the adult black male population is in prison, authorities continually cite the pervasive incidence of bipolar disorder amongst this population.

Certain types of people are actually in disposed toward cynicism. Decades ago Eric Hoffer aptly referred to them as 'the true believers'. Those able to nourish an all-embracing ideology seem uniquely immune to cynicism. They are too absorbed in 'what is' and 'what can be' to remain subject to whatever frustrates, denies or ignores. In today's terms these are Republicans and those Christian who are also fanatics.

Whereas many liberals are getting more and more cynical -- there is even fear of low voter turnout for 2012 -- Republicans and their uber religious contingent cheerily and reliably man the phones, walk the streets and then vote, down to the last person. You begin to see a few threads interweaving: those who are level-headed but understandably prone to cynicism when society and politics appear unmoved by reason become, are brought into battle lines against an opposition that appears unbeatable because willing to do what no ordinary person with ordinary interests and wherewithal will do without being pressed to the extremity, the same extremity rarely reached because of the reigning cynicism.

Both Presidents Sarkozy of France and Barack Obama promised everything to everybody with high phrases, manicured locutions and studied tones. They were announcing to their respective electorates that they were simply the right people for the job (parties and planks would have little bearing on their governance -- that stuff is old hat). Sarkozy lost reelection because the people acted against the fomenting fear of cynicism lest it devour their values, triggered by the frustration at getting none of those promises delivered. Obama broached some few of his promises but was never happier than when treating industry to perks in return for crumbs (albeit tasty). As more than one Democratic Senator would later acknowledge, Obama got the healthcare legislation he had wanted all along. When you combine that with the steady stream of feigned outrage, and all the warm fuzzies he kept up for the masses, well, we are made to look like what in fact we now are: Dupes. And therein lies a serious cause of endemic liberal cynicism.

This is a cynicism of great potential harm. Republicans will have us turn back the clock, restrict liberties, ignore dignity and foster cowboy capitalism as well as an absence of ethics across the board. Today's Republican Party wants local wealth to rule the roost everywhere. And they are winning. They employ, shamefacedly, bald-faced lies calculated to warm the base with hyperbole that announces how instinctively and unstintingly the candidate cares about what they care about. Works like a charm. How dull-witted must people be to vote for these freaks? But that is still another source of cynicism -- how do you change the minds of those whose minds are officially 'closed'?

An especially wearisome, and equally nefarious, mixture of liberal cynicism and Republican doggedness fosters a positive feedback reemphasizing both cynicism and doggedness, further worsening prospects for change. Mass killings make for manifest liberal cynicism that prevents much of the necessary grassroots massing that Congress requires to do anything of consequence, while Republicans have demonstrated that they can block virtually anything liberals bring to the table, ensuring that bad guys are armed. ll of which would justify the arming of everyone else, and further nourishing cynicism.

In a variation on the same theme, 'at risk' (capable of going haywire) mentally ill persons are not required to be in a program that ensures their fundamental freedoms in return for their ensuring protection of the public in a supervised treatment process. Let me assure you of a sad fact that even some clinicians don't want to face up to: all of the mass killings are effectuated by bipolars. There is a bevy medications available (to treat ups and downs together or separately), and while meds cannot by any means cure this protean condition, they nearly always stabilize mentality so as to prevent the worst possibilities.

Local authorities refuse to create such programs because the Supreme Court is said to deny any attempt. How silly can we be? Do we honestly believe that the Supreme Court sits back and gets a good belly laugh out of mass killings? They will accept any program honestly attempting to assure as many rights as are compatible with public safety, where it is increasingly more and more clear that reality demands medications be taken on a supervised basis for those most in need. Only one thing (outside of cupidity or fear) prevents such policies, and that is cynicism stemming from a desire to ease up on bloodshed, mingled with a realization that guns have to be allowable and that we don't like forcing people on meds. When there are competing frustrations that only compete for attention, both arguing the same result, the mental conflict results in cynicism, which renders otherwise realistic plans dead in the water even as they are tendered.

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Cynicism: More Dangerous than Psychopathology