So long as I have been in politics, one of the consistent emotions that has been expected of me and everyone else in a group is cynicism. Especially, on the left where I spend and have spent most of my time. In the ranks of the left according to the other activists, those who are not cynics are either dumb, brainwashed, or traitorous. With the protests going on, I have heard from many places that this is a sign of how bad racism is and the horrid state of the country. I take the diametric opposite view since the majority of Republicans support the protests and they are both successfully getting reforms passed and lowering Donald Trump’s poll numbers in swing states. If anything, right now is a time to hope more than any other during the Trump presidency. These protests and the current state of society is forwarding every progressive cause.
Cynicism is often decried, generally, but on specific issues it is always seen as smarter and more woke. In the years I spent with Black Lives Matter or with LGBT causes or economic issues, every victory was met with something to the effect that “There is still oppression so why are you dancing?” As if hope and happiness is only justified after the conquest of every malady that plagues this species. Then, there would be no reason to hope. All victories are intermediate but there is no end. I am religious but my beliefs about the Second Coming are more ethereal and eternal than they are physical and of earth so I’m not waiting to celebrate the final victory. The only victories we are ever going to have are limited but if the ultimate cause of our activism is human eudemonia, and within that joy, then within the ultimate failure is the human misery that comes from eternal pessimism.
After Barack Obama was elected, a significant portion of activists’ reaction was “this is meaningless and superficial” with regard to racial issues and after Obergefell v Hodges the widespread reaction among LGBT activists was “Yeah, but there is still so much homophobia. Don’t let this dupe you”. I’m not going to say the 2010’s decade was more good than bad, I’d gladly take civil unions and liberal democracy in exchange for gay marriage and authoritarian nationalism and on the more personal levels people are more anxious and lonely than at any time in living memory. Yet, on issues from feminism to racial justice to making socialism mainstream, significant victories have been won. We need to sit back and appreciate that. We have the most diverse congress in American history, you can get gay married in Alabama, and attractive girls can walk past construction sites now and take for granted they don’t hear anything.
The cynicism is not only wrong on a factual level, it is also wrong because it leads to paranoia and dark things resultant. It was the cynicism of institutions that, partially, led us to where we are. The belief that we are living in a dystopia makes people question vaccines, water fluoridation, and civility itself. Left and right. In Black Lives Matter and way back during Occupy, the most disturbing and annoying people were those donning Guy Fawkes masks or fawning over Malcolm X and masturbating to fantasies of a violent revolution. They were convinced that the world was so bad that the reasonable and moral answer was to get guns and start a war. Most of them had not done anti-war protests, I had done them and I wasn’t about to start something I had recently opposed. Forget MLK’s advocating peace in Alabama, something which is too often whitewashed and abused, let’s remember his advocating peace in Vietnam. When you think you’re living in a dystopia then violent resistance becomes seemingly sane when it is usually insane.
It was not that my fellow activists advocated violence that disturbed me so much but that they wanted to engage in it. I never thought they were going to but it’s still a sin to enjoy and desire the infliction of human suffering and destruction, not only to engage in it. The cynicism is a poison that led not just to the destruction of human bodies but human souls. When one is paranoid, one becomes willing to do things or one is reduced to wanting to do things that otherwise one would not. War turns people into monsters because when one believes one is at war then the other side is no longer human in your eyes and therefore you are less human on the inside. The cynicism has a body count with people like anti-vaxxers, but the number of dying souls is far greater. They begin to live in a world, not of siblings, but of boogiemen without humanity and a dark force than should be defeated by any means necessary, even inhuman ones.
We need to see these recent events for all the good they’re doing. We’re closer to major changes, now, than we have been for many years and that’s every reason to celebrate. If we don’t abandon our cynicism then whatever new system we put in place we’ll immediately lose faith in, oppose, and possibly undermine the very reforms they were placed in power to enact. Inevitably, once in power, all revolutionaries compromise and cool down and this is interpreted by the activists from which they sprung as treason. It will be very easy to dissociate with them and take a morally sophistic position of superiority by speaking in mostly deeply pessimistic words. That will not help the causes of love or justice. This movement is the best thing I’ve seen in years and is some of the best news of this entire presidential administration. I hope my fellow activists can see that.