My inner cynic wants to talk
On positivity, negativity, optimism, pessimism, sincerity, openmindedness
For the last couple of months, I've been trying to be positive about everything except maybe the coronavirus test. Despite the fact that we all have something to complain and moan about - many things happen that gives rise to discontent, irritability, anger, puts pressure on my inner cynic, do not allow him to dwell in his lethargic reality – I tried to somehow support myself and look at the future, present and past with optimism. I wanted to try something new with that. This does not concern everyday joys and small details upon which happiness is built, but global things, and social aspects of the environment in which I am being cooked.
But this optimism appears somehow distorted. It seems strange. It comes from the outside. It's like you're sitting in a dark room, seeing nothing, and rotten veggies and eggs, kicks, pushes, or something worse, are hitting at you from all around, all at once. You plug your ears. You curl your carcass into the semblance of an embryo. You squint to doubly not see anything, and pretend everything is fine. You look into the future, and it flickers with a kaleidoscope of Stygian colours on your shrunken eyelids.
And I don't want such optimism anymore. Such optimism does not spark joy but bewilderment and subsequent disappointment.
Some things in my life, the attitude towards them, the ways and the environment in which they passed through me like through a meat grinder, made me a little “toxic”, often too straightforward, maybe even rude, cynical, sometimes sceptical about many things. But, to my great happiness or undisclosed delusion, I still see the line and try not to cross it. I would like to think so, at least. This has been my nature for quite a long time and it is hard to change it. Although I'm not particularly talkative, I like to discuss and joke about topics that I think are hilarious, absurd, or at least funny. I am being rather frivolous and childish in treating them. I like to mock what I think is wrong. I like to watch, read and listen to people (who are much braver than me and have more “skin in the game”) when they say words with sincerity or with irony, or with sincerity hiding behind irony - doesn't matter. The key thing is that they do it because they really think so. Because they think it's right.
I respect that and because I spend most of my time online, I try to surround myself with such people. But for an unknown reason, there are few of them left in the visible proximity of my digital surrounding. Perhaps I’m not good and finding them or I’m in some sort of a bubble but I began noticing that more and more people turn on an internal censor, and more and more topics, even the most harmless ones, are “not welcome” and simply drop out of the discussion because it is unpleasant or unacceptable to talk about them. In its depth, this self-censorship, of course, is not inward, but outward, imposed by the environment, society, and everyone around.
Take Twitter, for example, or particular “positive” parts and movements of its culture. It is either not acceptable to talk about certain things, or vice versa - other certain conversations and moods (vibes, fuck them) are encouraged. "Bad", "mean", "negative" (only with quotes) things are considered unworthy of attention, and everyone discussing the face of Dafoe from the short film The Smile Man shows how happy they are, and how important it is to create a "positive" (can't write it without quotes, forgive me, wanderer) vibes (fuck them).
Such "positivity" has no sincerity. Such "optimism" is a person who has closed his eyes to the level of blindness, to whom a tub of slop is poured on his head but he endures. He is being “positive”, isn’t he?
Despite the sound of it, the bitter truth is still better than any reassuring lie, but for some reason, people often fancy the latter. They surround themselves with other such people and sources of information and as a result, they cannot, or do not want to, accept any unpleasant opinions whether they are true or not. They weave a cocoon around themselves and try to limit their existence to it, the cocoon of "positive" thinking.
"There is already too much hate in this world," you might say. This is certainly true. There is no point in whining and complaining about everything, I am not going to argue with that. But, at the same time, that is exactly the point – there is already too much wrongness in the world to just pretend you do not notice it and do not talk about it. You cannot stop thinking about it anyway, so what is the point then? Weeds should be pulled out, not just cut, and strained smiles look good only on stock photos (before they turn into viral memes).
Disagreements and arguments are where ideas bud and bloom. If we imagine they also follow the principles of evolution, some basic aspects of it, ideas that need changes, mutations, and crossbreeding. They must be able to adapt. How good are our beliefs if they cannot stand a simple argument? They will not be able to survive if we just close our eyes to everything that contradicts them and stop calling things by their proper names. A bad essay is a bad essay, doesn’t matter how bad you want to please the author. A bad film is a bad film, doesn’t matter which agenda it tries to fit in. People talking nonsense online are people talking nonsense online. A fortune cookie tweet is a blunt beguiling platitude, not a piece of omniwisdom. We are gonna make it only if we can open our eyes to all ideas – subjectively right or subjectively wrong. Otherwise, we are not gonna make it.
Giani Rodari, an Italian writer known for Cipollino, has a children's fairy tale "Gelsomino in the Country of Liars". Gelsomino, the main character of the book, embarks on a journey around the world in search of happiness and a better life. One of the places he visits is the Country of Liars. An ex-pirate-now-king, Giacomone, together with his gang, seized power in the country and obliged all living creatures to tell lies and nothing but lies. Dogs now began to meow, cats started to bark, and horses and cows also changed their voices. Children at school study math in a weird inside-out way. Artists must draw animals with the wrong number of paws and people with the wrong number of eyes. Ink is called bread. All coins in circulation are fake. The country's main newspaper is called the "Exemplary Liar" and is based on inside-out facts and reports, none of which is true. Of course, because it is a fairy tale, in the end, Gelsomino and his friends win and return the truth back to people.
Unlike the heroes of the book, we do not live in a hyperbolized children's fairy tale, but there are enough similarities with our world, especially with the online world I am floating in. Rare people are not afraid to scold what they think is wrong. Rare people are not afraid to be utter pessimists, cynics, mockers, critics. Rare people are not afraid of being themselves. (I do have problems with this, too.) Others have stopped calling things by their proper names, find streamlined terms for everything, speak, write and look for something that would be "pleasant" to read, something that caresses perception, something that supports a "positive" and "optimistic" attitude and atmosphere. Forgive me, wanderer, but I can't write these words without quotes. Not anymore. They have lost their meaning like many other words.
The difference, however, between our world and the world of the fairy tale, is that we have neither a single evil king who would order everyone to tell nothing but lies nor Gelsomino, who would save us from him. We have only ourselves.