Optimistic Cynicism

Over the years I’ve come to realize that I’m definitely a cynic. I don’t really see it as a personality flaw, after all there is plenty in this world to be cynical about. Politicians lie to us as a matter of course, lawyers are suing like crazy over more and more idiotic stuff, and the whole of America seems to be heading the way of ancient Rome. It’s become a hulking mass of failures propped up by other failures.

Joseph Schumpeter talked about the winds of creative destruction; a theory that basically says when something important (say, a major “too big to fail” bank) is destroyed, it opens space for others to step in and provide what that failed entity provided previously. Many of these new entities will be better run with stronger, more creative ideas than the entity they replace. It is a natural course of industry that some companies will fail and be replaced by others. Too big to fail does not exist, because if something is too big to fail then when it fails others will step in immediately to take up the slack and (this is important) the money that people were happily giving to the failing entity.

Where there is a demand, there will be a supply.

I say all of this to explain what feels at first blush, even in my own mind, like an internal contradiction. I expect the worst from man. We are a brutish, hateful, destructive species. We kill our fellow animals (human and otherwise) nigh indiscriminately. We visit evils worse than death on some, torturing members of the animal kingdom in the name of science or (even more disturbingly) in the name of “looking pretty” or “feeling good.”

It’s getting a bit off topic, but Adam Reed is one of my favorite TV writers (even though he totally stole my “acid in the face” bit that I’ve written into every long work … I don’t care if he came up with it first, I’d been writing it into things for years and have only been aware of him for about eight months, but I digress) and he had a great exchange in Sealab 2021 about animal testing:

“You can’t test drugs on humans! There are rules! Procedures! It has to be tested on animals first!”

“Why? Why does all the crap we consume have to be tested on animals first?”

“Because that’s–”

“–A rat doesn’t wear lipstick, okay? A rabbit doesn’t use hairspray! A monkey doesn’t need pills to get ramped up for hot monkey sex! It’s people, man! We’re miserable! So why SHOULDN’T we try it all first?”

“…Well, you’ve got a point there, actually.”

Getting back on topic, despite all that I can’t help but hope for the best even though I anticipate the worst. Despite our massive capacity for evil, there is real good in mankind too. I hope for the best, expect the worst, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised and get something in between.

(I had gone on a bit, but ye ole blog site ate the rest of the post and I don’t feel up to recreating it. Mostly it was reiteration of the above. Also: I got a new job today!)


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