Hello and welcome to Cynics Anonymous.
I'm a lapsed Cynic. I have now abstained from making a cynical remark for nearly 12 days.
I used to be constantly cynical, finding cynicism in everything and misusing cynicism in ways that you cannot imagine. I wrote satirical columns. I made cynical remarks about politicians in front of the pets.
And it was so easy to get cynical. Listen to a politician blithely constructing a complete set of lies, an Unreal Estate Agent saying "the section is a bit swampy but think of it as the perfect place for a swimming pool" or advertising trying to sell you compete tosh and you can feel the cynicism kick in.
It can be addictive. Cynicism does have an attitude. It can make you feel superior and despairing at the same time.
For me, it all started with small bouts of cynical snickering at the claims made by consultancies touting team building strategies. Gradually I moved on to stronger doses of cynical comments and even started laughing hysterically while listening to politicians ignore crucial bits of truth and reshaping them into great big lies.
I even found myself muttering cynical oaths to myself and glaring at the poor defenceless kitchen radio while a politician was obfuscating, refusing to give a straight answer to a very straightforward question.
I moved on to the harder stuff such as Flat Earthers (mostly harmless), anti–vaxxers (mostly dangerously clueless) and bigots (cluelessly dangerously deluded) with the sheer level of obvious hypocrisy pushing my cynicism into outrageous overdrive.
Then I overdosed on a Boris Johnson interview that contained whole swathes of his lies and found myself shouting at the newspaper. The dog looked alarmed, the cat hid under the sofa and my very significant other asked if I was all right.
DHB rising up and challenging the unspoken for White Ribbon Day
Terry Sarten: Education is the Key to the Future
I knew it was time to do something drastic as there was a very real danger that my cynicism might morph into sarcasm. Sarcasm is considered the lowest form of wit and certainly is cutting and hurtful to the receiver (the Sarcasee) while often giving the Sarcasor a dangerous rush of blood to the head and sudden sense of misplaced superiority.
Some years ago, I invented a version of this by saying "Distance becomes you" to someone I was not happy to see. Admittedly, the person took a few minutes to work out what this meant but I decided to never use heavily camouflaged sarcasm again.
I hope to cease being a cynic and to avoid falling victim to the sarcasm trap by taking one step towards optimism every day. That is why I am here at Cynics Anonymous.
Now when I hear a politician telling completely obvious lies, I try very hard to reframe this in a cloak of optimism by thinking kindly about how tough it must be to never be quite sure what lies you have told already. I have not quite got to the advanced higher state of optimism where I can feel sorry for them but I am trying to remain optimistic.
Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, satarista, musician and social worker.