Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At the heart of a cynic

"None of the media ever seem to look out the window. Everyone's used to being in motion all the time."
-David Foster Wallace (DFW)


You thought I was kidding when I said that I might devote all of my posts to quoting David Foster Wallace.

No joke, Friends, he is my subway companion and I am liable to start speaking only using his quotes in the very near future.

"The way the techs handle deep boredom is to become extremely sluggish and torpid, so that lined up on the ottoman they look like an exhibit of lizards whose tank isn't hot enough. Nobody reads. Pulse rates are about 40."
- DFW



All of these butchered quotes (someday I will ready the MLA or some other meaningful style manual.) come from an essay entitled: "Up Simba" that he wrote about John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

" - what one feels when they [politicians] loom into view is just an overwhelming lack of interest, the sort of deep disengagement that is often a defense against pain. Against sadness. In fact, the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians make us sad, hurt us deep down in ways that are hard to even name, much less talk about. It's way easier to roll your eyes and not give a shit."

"It's like we all learned in social studies back in junior high: If I vote and you don't, my vote counts double. and it's not just the fringes who benefit - the fact is that it is to some very powerful Establishments' advantage that most younger people hate politics and don't vote."

"Why do these crowds from Detroit to Charleston cheer so wildly at a simple promise not to lie? ... Because we've been lied to and lied to, and it hurts to be lied to. It's ultimately just about that complicated: it hurts. We learn this at like the age four ... and we keep learning for years, from hard experience, that getting lied to sucks - that it diminishes you, denies you respect for yourself, for the liar, for the world. Especially if the lies are chronic, systematic, if experience seems to teach that everything you're supposed to believe in's really just a game based on lies"

"It's painful to believe that the would-be "public servants" you're forced to choose between are all phonies whose only real concern is their own care and feeding and who will lie so outrageously and with such a straight face that you know they've just got to believe you're an idiot. So who wouldn't yawn and turn away, trade apathy and cynicism for the hurt of getting treated with contempt?"

-David Foster Wallace



From the personal - It is common to think that pain and betrayal could lead one to seek justice, vengeance, sympathy, healing, closure, perhaps a state of grace where one can forgive. That's how it is in the movies. But these are not the only responses. DFW points out that apathy and cynicism can be a reaction to being hurt. A person can go numb or try to find a way to insulate or distance themselves through cynicism. It is a means by which to survive. A person's callous response to your pain may telegraph suppressed pain - an actual callous on their psyche over where they would otherwise feel empathy.

From the political - what John McCain was to the 2000 election, Barack Obama was to the 2008 election and I think what he is trying to be with his administration. Perhaps the thing to remind our leaders in business, in politics, in our communities is that lying hurts. It does harm. And when you do it, you hurt us.

I am only halfway through the essay and may have to rewrite this when I am done.

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