Tuesday, November 16, 2004

In Defense of Cynicism

Hmm. I just read the TransplantedTexan's 'Canada and Cynicism', and a lot of what he said hit uncomfortably close to the mark ... almost as though he were talking about me, personally. Now, I can't in good faith refute his claim that the majority of Canadians are cynics of the first degree.

I would, however, argue that it is no accident that we are cynics, and that it is indeed not neccessarily a bad thing.

First, the why: most Canadians are in this country because, ultimately, their ancestors were fleeing a political nightmare in the old country. This is such common knowledge that I doubt it needs any further elaboration (though if anyone wishes to challenge me on this point I'll be thrilled to do a further, fully-researched post in which the main immigration periods of Canada's various ethnic groups are compared to the situations in their homelands at those times.)

This has given us a characteristically uncharitable view towards politicians, one to which I wholly subscribe. Not all are bad, of course (the Gubernator, Jesse Ventura, and Ralph Klein come to mind) and not everything they say is a lie (for instance, I believe Dubya completely when he claims to be a Christian, and the Harris government in Ontario really did do essentially everything it said it would.) However, these are the exceptions to a rule of thumb that history shows to be true more often than not: politicians are lying scum. (Actually, my personal bias is a little more nuanced, to use an unjustly reviled word: I believe that politicians are incompetent lying scum.)

How many governments have introduced a supposedly 'temporary' tax? How many have brought their nations to war under false pretenses (a charge that can be levelled at Lincoln as much as at Bush II)? How many have frittered away astronomical sums on their cronies, in the name of the 'public good'? If these questions sound rhetorical, it's because they are. You already know the answer.

Am I cynical about politics? You bet your sweet ass I am. I do not trust any ass-covering beareaucrat or grandstanding demagogue to tell me the truth, about their beliefs, their intentions, or anything else. I do not trust them to ever to a job the easiest, most efficient, cheapest, or effective way. I do not trust them to do anything meaningful to improve my life or the lives of others, unless those others are a tiny special interest group using their lobbying clout to get the government's blessing to siphon off wealth from the rest of us.

There's one thing I do trust government to do, and that's to make a pig's breakfast of anything it touches. Witness: health care, education, defence, and infrastructure. Any Canadians want to defend the government's record on those?

Thought not.

And this brings us to the second part of TT's piece on cynicism: conspiracy theories. TT says (quite correctly, in my view) that excessive cynicism leads to paranoid conspiracy theories. I agree. I believe in many conspiracies. Any government worthy of the name is, I am entirely sure, absolutely swarming with malicious, vindictive, and possibly even malevolent cospiracies. However, I also have total faith in the astounding incompetence of government, such that I sincerely doubt any of these conspiracies will be able to accomplish their aims. Thus, I have no fear of them, and do not let their presence worry me ... though I do get the occasional chuckle when I contemplate the crippling effect this wealth of clandestine plotting must be having on governments everywhere, consuming them from the inside out like maggots.

So, sure we're cynical. Sometimes, though, cynicism is the only healthy response. After all, are you really cynical if you actually are surrounded by assholes?


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