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Believing In Cynicism

Believing In Cynicism

May 29, 2011

When "'cuz I said so" doesn't cut it anymore.

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? 


  • vrushali
    02.07.11 05:26 AM
    totally agree with you and in fact ive already started to awaken such sleeping brains whos thinking is on 'auto' mode. your writing is exactly what i would like to fix them with
    ( pasting your article on their 'face's :D) facebook that is
  • Anirban Banerjee
    Anirban Banerjee
    07.06.11 12:22 PM
    You are absolutely right, but the reason why I chose the word "cynical" is partly because differences do tend to get blurred when it comes to language, and cynical is a much stronger word. What I meant was that some things are obviously bullshit, and perhaps people need to not just question them, but dismiss them as such.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    07.06.11 04:58 AM

    Are you sure you want more Indians to be more "cynical"? Or did you mean you want them to be more "skeptical" of what they see and read? There's a world of difference between the two no?

  • Aruna M.
    Aruna M.
    30.05.11 09:47 PM
    Actually, this was a real wake-up call. Most of us tend to believe the written word put out by the papers which has now extended to the net too...We tend to assume that if it is out there for everyone to see, it must be a fact. And it is sad if you can't do that, and have to rely on personal research to validate news..But I like your at least take a second look, analyse the news and see if it is really so.
  • Ajesh Banerjee
    Ajesh Banerjee
    30.05.11 05:40 PM
    Yes, after reading your post...I'm flabbergasted! I wonder how you maintain such a rebellious attitude in a society where almost everyone is following everything "blindly." It takes courage to question, which most of us don't have. We grow in a society where we see our parents believing in the concept of GOD. Where we can easily spread a "fake news" on internet only to make us feel better about our self esteem without even knowing the real truth behind it. We do it, just because everyone else is doing. We read newspapers and believe whatever they write, because those are "printed words." And...suddenly you came out of the blue! Reminding us one simply thing..."WHY?" DAMN! Beware my dear rebel, you are like a person with perfect eyesight among thousands of blind people. But, from a personal point of view, we need you! We need your nihilism...or perhaps cynicism to judge something properly! Remember? The history of earth is the history of some rebels..those who had the courage to stand up against the entire system and ask calmly..."WHY?"

    KUDOS! HATS OFF! BRAVO! AMAZING!!! Love your post!
  • Anirban
    29.05.11 11:49 PM
    @Cooper Thanks
    @tys well, it's kind of my philosophy too. Question everything. Don't be rude about it, but always know the reason behind why you "should" or "should not" do something
  • tys
    29.05.11 11:03 PM
    bravo...u had me at psuedo not believe, thts a motto my parents had instilled in all three of us...mum used to say tht millions saying bullshit is right, doesnt make it right...question everything....

    Loved it...absolutely loved it...iam actually grinning
  • Aditya Nayak
    Aditya Nayak
    29.05.11 10:32 PM
    True. I was pissed off by such attitude to and that was the reason I start Awakening the Indian Within.

    The concept is that we deliver a fact about India's achievements in various field every morning. So now you have a reason to feel proud and dont have to make up stuff :D
  • CooperPatel
    29.05.11 10:00 PM
    Good point.

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