It’s a twisted turn. The cynic is now the one considered politically correct. Those hailing the halo are seeing themselves as anti-establishment because they are anti-ennui. Their tired eyes and tired limbs cannot anymore tolerate the possibility of truth, any truth, including their own. Cameron Diaz is seeing a therapist to cure her of her cynical attitude.
I am sitting with holes I have picked in official versions as quite a few others have done. Suddenly, I am politically correct, pandering to Leftist/Islamist/Polemical/Racist strains. The middle-class has time to muse while playing the Left, I am told. A correction is in order. The middle-class is the one greasing palms, pretending to toil. It suffers from the delusion that the world existing outside it is neatly divided ? the ones who don’t waste time pondering over things they have no control over and the ones who live their lives with utter simplicity.
The purest form of cynicism would, in fact, fit the latter for the Greek philosopher Antisthenes maintained that it was the call of such spartanism that the cynic answered to. But is simplicity not a simplification of spartanism too? Would not paring down arguments to their bare bones be a form of austerity where the cynic is really an idealist seeking to iron out creases?
Debates are now being pushed into basements. Is it because there is too much of it? No one complains of too much debauchery, of too much governance, of too much violence. Those who are traditionally considered against gun culture do not even see the violence of the peace ideology, of the violence in mourning the same dead again and again. They are not cynics, they say. They care.
Yes, they care. They care enough to now whitewash a Black man where a president is. Even racists have got over that. The cynics who are accused of political correctness are being consigned to the racist bin because they are not celebrating along with a man who has given them what they did not even know they wanted: Memory. “We will not forget,” is the chant. It used to be what the cynics said once. Now these supra-cynics have taken over, scrawling invisible graffiti on invisible walls so that one fine day they can say, “Look Ma, no hands.”
No hands do not make for idealism or even pragmatism. Barack Obama has been elevated, as he would be, but for the wrong reasons. He could not do anything right, so now they are giving him the right to be right. It is a democracy ? a democracy that finally elected a Black man. Now, for a brief while till the jubilations continue, they won’t see a colour to his skin, they won’t ask for his birth certificate, his origins or even his politics. They are happy to watch the designer payback. Where are the arguments, the counterpoints? No, sir. You are a racist. You cannot stand the idea of a Black man, a part Moslem getting a brown man and a whole Moslem.
A while ago in a bar in Cape Town the neo black elite in the form of a business tycoon, Kenny Kunene, was criticised for his extravagant lifestyle and his parties where sushi was served on models’ bodies and the best wines were served. Union leader Zwelinzima Vavi said, “It is this spitting on the face of the poor and insulting their integrity that makes me sick.”
A person of wealth, by whatever means, can be tried for crimes, but not for how he uses his wealth. It is assumed that all the poor have integrity when they have few options. It is sloppy stay back at home time.
In an open letter Kunene wrote back, “You remind me of what it felt like to live under apartheid. You are telling me, a black man, what I can and cannot do with my life. You are narrow-minded and still think that it’s a sin for black people to drive sports cars or be millionaires at a young age. You make my stomach turn.”
Who is the cynic here?
The cynic is battling projectionism. The cynic who did not see colour or class or religious affiliations is racist, and there is political correctness in that it is deemed to be part of the straw man argument where a large section of the critics happen to be white. The primarily brown third world has to make noises about how good it is to see an invisible death played out with respect for customs. The cynic asking for gruesome details is a voyeur. The bloodbaths of the establishment are forgotten (oh, sure, they do forget), but now is the time for propriety, for the sanitised picture. For belief. Belief is the new anti-thesis.
In what might be considered a moment of inquiry, a group of US armymen have ‘come out’ of the closet to declare themselves non-believers, atheists. There cannot be a greater indictment of those who contend that the military is non-partisan. In Fort Bragg, home to one of the biggest military bases in the United States, they have formed an organisation, MASH – Military Atheists and Secular Humanists. A report mentioned that it hopes to be a pioneering effort to ensure fair treatment and win recognition for nonbelievers in the overwhelmingly Christian US military.
They are looking for official recognition as much as any ‘faith’ group. “We exist, we’re here, we’re normal. We’re also in foxholes. That’s a big one, right there.”
That they are part of an “assorted sceptics” group won’t be of much help. By the mere fact of their faithless stature, they will be seen as suspect. If you do not believe, then who are you with? It is the black and white quagmire. The extremism of the cynics is in opposition to the extremism of the non-cynics, who have always been in kumbaya mode.
They do not see that slowly they are becoming a uniform society. Uniform not in the egalitarian sense but the stratification of cultural hubris. Immigrants are visiting cosmetic surgeons in New York to reshape “Asian eyelids and Latina silhouettes”. The president of the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group had said, “When a patient comes in from a certain ethnic background and of a certain age, we know what they’re going to be looking for. We are sort of amateur sociologists.”
Soon, it won’t be only about baseball caps turned backwards but about being like one of them, the cheerleaders of miasma. Their hoots and hyena laughter will drown out the bark of dogs. Dogs. Cynics. The Greek origin ‘kuon’ means dog and the philosophy it espoused was bliss without a care for tangible things. Times have changed. The definition might have fit the simpletons, although not without the dash of tinsel to their trees, branches swaying with jollity as every fruitfall harkens to the days of Eden.
There is the story of Diogenes, a cynic if there was one. When Alexander the Great approached him and asked if there was anything he wanted, he said there was just one and told him to move a bit. The sun’s rays is what he wanted that the king was blocking from his view.
This is beyond the literal. It is about seeing not the light that descended from a heaven we do not know but to be able to see more clearly what is right there before us. We let kings block the light. In the dark can you look back in angst?
Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based author-columnist. She can be reached at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/