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Forum Post: Cynicism is Intellectual Cowardice... a Cop-Out to Rationalize Fear and Laziness

Posted 5 years ago on Aug. 15, 2012, 6:08 p.m. EST by kaiserw (211)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Cynicism is Intellectual Cowardice … a Cop-Out to Rationalize Fear and Laziness Posted on August 15, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog
Cynicism Is Not Smart, Sophisticated or Detached … It’s a Cop-Out

Preface: Obviously, giving up cynicism and getting active doesn’t mean adopting phony hopium. It means abandoning both fear and laziness – on the one hand – and false hope on the other.

In other words, be cynical of those in power. But don’t be cynical about the usefulness – and necessity – of action to challenge the criminal acts of those in power.

We have overwhelming numbers (and see this). If we worked together we would win.

Why aren’t we?

A large reason that we are failing is that people are copping out … by adopting a cynical attitude.

Many of us pretend that we are too smart to think anything can change. Too smart to get emotionally involved in the destruction of our prosperity or our liberties.

“Cynicism is nothing but intellectual cowardice”.

  • Henry Rollins

“Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.”

  • Peggy Noonan

We’ve previously noted:

The ironic thing is that if all of the people who think of themselves as cynics or skeptics made noise, things would instantly change for the better. In other words, the millions upon millions of cynics/skeptics/self-described “realists” aren’t raising a ruckus against the fraud being committed by the giant banks, the corruption of our political system, or the lawlessness and imperial arrogance of our military-industrial complex because they think things can’t change.

But by staying silent, they are actually creating the conditions in which nothing can change.

If the millions of cynics woke up to the fact that they are a huge group – especially when combined with the people who are already actively working for the restoration of a democratic republic, justice, and the rule of law – they would suddenly realize that collectively we can change things in a heart beat.


Skepticism, cynicism and “realism” is an act of fear, of cowardice, of apathy. Because if the skeptics just got off their backsides and made some noise, things would change.

The Real Hero Fights Without Knowing Whether Or Not He’ll Succeed

The optimist – whether a person of faith or plain old positive temperament – is sure that he’ll succeed.

The pessimist – i.e. the cynic – is sure he’ll fail. Indeed, the powers-that-be try to instill pessimism (see number 2) so that we won’t try.

But the truth is that we never know in advance whether we’ll win or not.

We’ve previously noted:


We are called upon as part of our core purpose to struggle to try to make the world a better place. But we are not privy to fruits of our actions. We are not granted a view of the future … we will never know how many people we will help, and how we will change the course of history.

We are called upon to struggle, but we can never know the end result of our efforts … that is not for us mere mortals to know.

Chris Hedges – the Pulitizer-prize winning reporter who challenged the indefinite detention law and amazingly succeeded against all odds in having a judge strike down that law, saying:

None of us thought we would win.

Another judge – amazingly – halted all nuclear construction and licenses until disposal risks are addressed.

They didn’t know until they tried whether or not they could win.

And – even if we lose the immediate battle – we will help win a long-term war. Specifically – as bad as things are (and yes, we know things are getting worse) – they would be much worse if millions of people worldwide hadn’t struggled.

As Hedges writes:

The battles that must be fought may never be won in our lifetime. And there will always be new battles to define our struggle. Resistance to tyranny and evil is never ending.

So how can we fight not knowing whether we’ll succeed?

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

Hellen Keller pointed out:

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

And Czech leader Vaclav Havel said:

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

Go Viral … It’s Contagious

Courage is contagious (and as scared as we may be of the powers-that-be, they’re terrified of us as well.)

So is the ability to think.

As we’ve previously noted:

[Studies show ] that even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:

Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as “conformity”. In the classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram: Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment to determine your own answer…The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people looking at the diagram – seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of the experimenter. The other “subjects” in the experiment, one after the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say “C” – giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would be?

Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch’s experiment gave a “conforming” answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the time.

Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.

But here’s the good news:

Adding a single dissenter – just one other person who gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that’s different from the group’s incorrect answer – reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%. Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.

If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government’s version of events, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the group out of its trance.

There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited article states that:

When subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity also drops.What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity gives people permission to “respond in a way that will not be seen by the group”. But most Americans still don’t get their news from the web, or only go to mainstream corporate news sites.

Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity dynamic — and the need for courageous dissent — is vital. It is doubly important that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.

Bottom line: Each person‘s voice has the power to snap entire groups out of their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality and truth among the sleeping masses.

And a recent study shows that when only 10% of a population have strongly-held beliefs, their belief will often be adopted by the majority of the society.

This is true of soldiers as well as civilians. Indeed, if the soldiers, sailors, seals, flyboys, intel operatives and law enforcement officers wake up to what is really happening, things would change overnight.

Some historical quotes may be helpful in illustrating the importance of struggling to make things better …

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

  • Robert F . Kennedy

We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before; and it changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise; we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.

  • George Washington

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

  • Howard Zinn

If you don’t like the news, go out and make some news of your own.

  • Scoop Nisker

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.

  • Bruce Lee




Read the Rules
[-] 2 points by 1sealyon (434) 5 years ago

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.—George Bernard Shaw

[-] 1 points by jbgramps (159) 5 years ago

Call it being a cynic or being a realist. US Society is coming apart at the seams. A divided nation as bad you’ll ever see.

Hate on every street corner, cities so dangerous you can’t go out unarmed, racism worse than ever, guns selling like hot cakes, political parties that won’t work together, corporations not much more than organized crime, and the list goes on.

The government is broken, but it’s a symptom of the real problems of society. Look, Americans bought gas-guzzling SUVs and didn't save their money. People shopped at Walmart, which outsources its labor and profits to other countries (taking money out of their communities versus buying at local stores which would have saved their money in local banks and reinvested in workers, other local businesses, etc). Companies relied on making big profits fast, giving bonuses to CEOs and downsizing to keep shareholder profits at a certain point instead of trying to improve the company or close wage gaps so that workers could keep their jobs.

A president can’t fix a country that wants to consume-consume-consume, doesn't give a hoot about their neighbor or community as long as THEIR kid is in a good school, and celebrates excess and greed as if we do not live in one of the most abundant lands on earth.

Problem is, people want the economy fixed, but they don't want to fix themselves. They don't want to admit how individual choices have led to the downfall of this country. They want to watch Real Housewives and dumb shows and drink soda and eat fast food and be obese and smoke cigarettes and take NO responsibility for how that attitude and mindset and their consumer power is feeding all the things that are affecting/messing up the country.

It is SOOOOO so so so OVER to blame the president and the government for this country's problems. Because they may be bickering babies, but they ARE our representatives and Americans DID vote them into office. And according to most polls, it is actually the upper class, educated citizens that are more likely to vote, so what does that tell you?

I’m doubtful the divisiveness and problems can be fixed without society collapsing first. I think an financial meltdown is inevitable. It’s too late for political solutions. We’re probably going to see a depression much larger than the 1930’s Great Depression. Cold, hungry, scared people are dangerous and it could bloody.

[-] 0 points by 1sealyon (434) 5 years ago

Well, I suspect there are a few places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Columbia that are a bit more divided than the US. Just a bit.

America is actually one of the most diverse, tolerant, and free places on the planet. We have our disagreements but we don't butcher one another over them.

Get a grip, nothing is collapsing.

[-] 1 points by jbgramps (159) 5 years ago

I appreciate your positive outlook. But it seems to emit a bit of denial. America is the most violent of any industrialized nation. You can verify that with a quick google search.

Racism is a serious issue and seems to be getting worse every day. The masses are greatly divided on any number of issues, ranging from gun regulations, drugs, abortion, gay rights, religion, immigration, political alliance, and the list goes on. I don’t mean simple disagreements, but a level of hate and passion that no reasonable discussion is possible. Case in point. The majority of OWS hate the right-wingers so much they blame them for everything wrong in this world.

I simply don’t see this division of the people being resolved. Too many volatile issues and people are too far apart on everything. So, I stand by my original post that the only way the people will come together is when things get so bad people will have to group together by race, religion and values out of necessity for security and survival.

The US economy will fail. We will fall into a deep depression. The likes of which we’ve never encountered. Political ideologies will become secondary to survival. The people follow whoever can provide jobs and security.

That’s my two cants. I like to think I’m a positive person, but not in denial.

[-] 0 points by 1sealyon (434) 5 years ago

Here is a way to maintain a positive perspective and at the same time scrutinize the media and other info sources that earn a living off bad news.

Test the assumption that America is a racist hell-hole and getting worse every day.

If it is as bad as they say it must be all around you all the time. Ask your closest friends and relatives whether they were victimized by a racist act in the last 12 months. Not a feeling or an idea but a concrete act for which they experienced demonstrable damage. Remember racism is an idea in someones head and hurts no one except the holder. It takes an act of prejudice to produce an effect.

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 5 years ago


No, we just shoot 'em by the boat load.

Or throw them in prison and torture them

That's OK to ignore, 'cause it's constitutional.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 5 years ago

How many in boat load?

The average, middle class American is 365,000 times more likely to be injured or killed by an automobile than by a hand hand gun. There is a lot more tortured logic on this site than tortured people in America. Unless you count the folks that live on Staten Island.

We do have a lot of people in prison, and there are a lot more that should probably be keeping them company. Big Gov builds big prisons. In your lifetime have you ever witnessed a decrease in the number and variety of laws and rules that steal your liberty? They never get rid of a law without adding three more.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 5 years ago

There's a reason they call them accidents.

I don't buy one for the purpose of damaging anything, let alone killing something....................Guns? Yes on both counts.

Talk about a strawman.

Your statement on prisons and law is ludicrous, so I'm not going to go there for now..



[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Back space the lines on your post that are running off of the screen - when you get those lines back over to the left margin - they will appear correctly on the page.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

no prob

[-] 1 points by kaiserw (211) 5 years ago

Thanks, Fixed.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 5 years ago

A surprisingly cynical claim.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

If I can add one thing, QUIT USING THE WORD "THEY" to talk about those who afflict the world with their never ending quest for everybody's else's money.

"THEY" don't use the word "they" when they talk about us. They use words like, lemmings, barnacle dung, the worthless people, when "they" talk about you, QUIT USING THE WORD THEY, and quit using the word THEY, followed by THEIR REASONS for why you can't succeed.

And sign my fucking petition, you pond scum skimmers. http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-create-debt-neutrality-rights-for-paying-down-credit-cards-student-loans

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Having a bad moment?

Looks like you had trouble not using they - Hey?

BTW - I did sign the petition. So - feel free to rant on - but I don't see how that does your cause any good.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

By the way, if you signed the petition, then obviously you are not a "they" or a "they trumpeter".

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

I try to stay away from such nebulous designations unless and until "they" have been established - then it can be ok to get down to business - just I try not to stay to long away from the designated party but also try not to be too repetitive. Generaly I will ask others who their "they" is - just to establish clarity. Then if they ( whom I am conversing with ) do not use the designation of the party - I will.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

I just find the phrase, "they will never do that" to be very destructive, almost something a CIA or FBI operative would use to dissuade an a group from trying to create "change".

So when someone uses that phrase on an idea that I have proposed, I get suspicious. And I think that is what this article is talking about.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

I think you may have misunderstood my prior comment.

The "they" comment was not directed towards any one person. It was just that I have noticed in general that the word "they" is used quite a bit when people want to disarm someone else's position or passion.

"They would never do that" is a comment that I find to be one of the biggest con statements ever spoken. It just may not be up to "them", isn't that the point of this article?

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

I think it's more on being cynical apathetic self defeatist. The thrust being to stand-up and speak-out - as "You" ( the individual ) CAN make a difference all by your self.

That last about pond scum skimmers? Umm ..your gonna tell me you were not venting a little?

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

I was making the point that "they" probably already view themselves as being better than us, so when an alleged us member says, "they will never do that" or "they will never agree to that", I have to question what that person's agenda really is.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33540) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago
  • so when an alleged us member says, "they will never do that" or "they will never agree to that

Yes - is it being negative? is it being apathetic? is it being depressed?

Or is it an effort to dissuade good people from doing anything?

It can be all of those things.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

Yes, which brings us back to the article this topic is about, cynicism equals cowardice.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 5 years ago

blah, blah, blah.

I suddenly feel better, it's as if my cynicism trumps your intellectualism, and, I don't have to do anything more about it!


[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

I like this. We cannot give in to despair. The system may be broken but WE can fix it. The corps may have bought our govt. But we CAN take it back. There is nothing the people united cannot do. believe it. Embrace it. BE the change.


[-] 0 points by gsw (3147) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 5 years ago

Rocky Anderson is Staying Optomistic, on ballot in many states, and he praised Ows as idealistic courageous and convergent with his positions (3RD LINK) His strategy is through social media, as the egyptian s did, wants a revo. Against duopoly. If we met up in public forums, parks, and championed his candidacy, that's freedom of speech. How could that be shut down. And everyone emailed, wrote everyone they know, everyone in the phone book, but keep it optimistic, have kids there, etc pro family and worker.








It was cool to the public when you occupied. Real not staged. For those who know in their soul the system has deep problems, it was inspiring.

Can WE occupy central park(s) and spread the message there, even if it is daily. It was cool you were out in public standing up.

It's just whole country feels conservative, cause cons keep repeative Obama is communist.

OWS was so fast, and not well covered in main media, for most part. I think it was raising awareness, especially when the police got out of line, but now it is easy for public to ignore, and for many they may believe it has faded away:((

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 5 years ago

Everyone paints his face and smiles; we're all conformists.

That's not the issue, the issue getting others to conform.

Solomon Asch was correct in choosing the triangle; he failed in that he did not recognize the symbolism.

Spirituals are good, though... write on.