There was this Facebook status doing the rounds a few days back.
“PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN!!!!!! Jana Gana Mana, the Indian national anthem, has been selected as the BEST national anthem by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). If you are proud to be an Indian, please copy and paste blah blah, blablablah, blah blah.”
Well, full disclosure, I didn’t really read anything beyond “and paste”. It could have been a succession of blahs, it could have been something else. Point is, I was too busy being flabbergasted. Flabbergasted that anyone would actually sharethis piece of blatant fiction as “news”, just because it scratched their pseudo-patriotic itch. Flabbergasted that ANYONE would believe, even for a moment that a body like UNESCO would actually do an “Anthem Idol” and then declare a winner without all the losing countries collectively losing their shit over it. Flabbergasted that there could possibly be an impartial jury in a contest like this. Flabbergasted that people could be so gullible.
And yet, there it was, plastered all over Facebook walls and Twitter feeds, with some of my more jingoistic colleagues even helping it go viral offline i.e. going around with a cup of coffee and talking about the “news”. Sure enough, even the most basic, cursory search told me that it was a hoax, a hoax that had been around since 2008, no less. Needless to say, after pointing it out, I wasn’t the most popular person in office for the next few days. Serial killers have received warmer welcomes.
Whenever I hear someone say people are just too cynical these days, my little rage-vein near the neck starts throbbing. One, because of the sheer irony of it, because only the most misguidedly cynical person would really make a comment like that. And two, I wish, oh how I wish it were true. Forget being TOO cynical, the way I see it, people are barely being cynical enough. Every day I am reminded just how little cynicism there is. I’m reminded of it when I see twenty-year-olds sporting seven rings on ten fingers, and none of them as fashion accessories. I’m reminded of it when people openly weep at the death of a man who convinced millions he was a god by performing cheap parlour tricks no self-respecting magician would touch. And yes, I am reminded of it when I see how many people actually buy into the “news” that Jana Gana Mana has been named the “best” national anthem by UNESCO.
Sure, people are cynical of those age-old things they have always been cynical about, the things that are kinda, sorta, maybe true. We are cynical of a politicians good intentions, or a businessman’s morals, or the extent of work an NGO does. But when it comes to things that could not possibly be true, things that can be dismissed after a moment of critical thinking, so many people know love to put their blinkers on.
Cynicism has somehow become an ugly word, which is sad but unsurprising in a largely faith-based society. It has been equated with nihilism, which is about as off the mark as it can get. “Oh, you’re such a cynic” is an expression of frustration, a borderline insult. And while a patently cynical outlook is never good (but then again, what, taken to the extreme, ever is?), I just wonder whether we could do with a little more of it now and then? After all, the original cynics were just people who believed in rejecting convention to live a life of virtue in accordance to nature. And while that may be difficult in this day and age, just imagine where we would be if Copernicus was not cynical about the prevailing theory that Earth was the center of the universe, or Darwin was not cynical about intelligent design?