Cynicism is Intellectual Cowardice … a Cop-Out to Rationalize Fear and Laziness

Cynicism Is Not Smart, Sophisticated or Detached … It’s a Cop-Out

Preface: Obviously, giving up cynicism and getting active doesn’t mean adopting phony hopium.  It means abandoning both fear and laziness – on the one hand – and false hope on the other.

In other words, question authority and be cynical of those in power. But don’t be cynical of the desirability – and necessity – of acting to challenge the destructive or criminal acts of those in power.

We have overwhelming numbers (and see this).  If we worked together we would win.

Why aren’t we?

A large reason that we are failing is that people are copping out … by adopting a cynical attitude.

Many of us pretend that we are too smart to think anything can change.  Too smart to get emotionally involved in the destruction of our prosperity or our liberties.

“Cynicism is nothing but intellectual cowardice”.
– Henry Rollins

“Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.”
– Peggy Noonan

“A cynic is a coward ….  Cynicism always takes the easy way out. It is a form of laziness that provides someone with an excuse for not making any attempt to change the world ….  Cynicism is a way to hide ….  Cynics are afraid ….  So, instead, they pass judgment on anyone who is trying to make a difference. They ridicule the efforts of individuals and organizations that are working hard under incredibly difficult circumstances  …. Being cynical is often thought of as being composed and detached. It is considered to be a sign of sophistication. Cynics are mistakenly given credit for possessing a deep awareness regarding the limits of what humans can accomplish which is somehow lacking in those who spend their time in passionate efforts to change the world …. Being filled with cynicism is indeed a cowardly and sad way to go through life. ”

– Michael Crawley

We’ve previously noted:

The ironic thing is that if all of the people who think of themselves as cynics or skeptics made noise, things would instantly change for the better. In other words, the millions upon millions of cynics/skeptics/self-described “realists” aren’t raising a ruckus against the fraud being committed by the giant banks, the corruption of our political system, or the lawlessness and imperial arrogance of our military-industrial complex because they think things can’t change.

But by staying silent, they are actually creating the conditions in which nothing can change.

If the millions of cynics woke up to the fact that they are a huge group – especially when combined with the people who are already actively working for the restoration of a democratic republic, justice, and the rule of law – they would suddenly realize that collectively we can change things in a heart beat.


Skepticism, cynicism and “realism” is an act of fear, of cowardice, of apathy. Because if the skeptics just got off their backsides and made some noise, things would change.

The Real Hero Fights Without Knowing Whether Or Not He’ll Succeed

The optimist – whether a person of faith or plain old positive temperament – is sure that he’ll succeed.

The pessimist – i.e. the cynic – is sure he’ll fail.  Indeed, the powers-that-be try to instill pessimism (see number 2) so that we won’t try.

But the truth is that we never know in advance whether we’ll win or not.

We’ve previously noted:

How do we know if what we’re doing will really have an effect or not? How do we know if we are being called upon to struggle in order to succeed in changing things for the better … or for the heck of it?


We are called upon as part of our core purpose to struggle to try to make the world a better place. But we are not privy to fruits of our actions. We are not granted a view of the future … we will never know how many people we will help, and how we will change the course of history.

We are called upon to struggle, but we can never know the end result of our efforts … that is not for us mere mortals to know.

Chris Hedges – the Pulitizer-prize winning reporter who challenged the indefinite detention law and amazingly succeeded against all odds in having a judge strike down that law, saying:

None of us thought we would win.

Another judge – amazingly – halted all nuclear construction and licenses until disposal risks are addressed.

They didn’t know until they tried whether or not they could win.

And – even if we lose the immediate battle – we will help win a long-term war.  Specifically – as bad as things are (and yes, we know things are getting worse)  – they would be much worse if millions of people worldwide hadn’t struggled.

As Hedges writes:

The battles that must be fought may never be won in our lifetime. And there will always be new battles to define our struggle. Resistance to tyranny and evil is never ending.

So how can we fight not knowing whether we’ll succeed?

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

Hellen Keller pointed out:

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

And Czech leader Vaclav Havel said:

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

Go Viral … It’s Contagious

Courage is contagious (and as scared as we may be of the powers-that-be, they’re terrified of us as well.)

So is the ability to think.

As we’ve previously noted:

[Studies show ] that even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:

Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as “conformity”. In the classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram: Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment to determine your own answer…The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people looking at the diagram – seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of the experimenter. The other “subjects” in the experiment, one after the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say “C” – giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would be?

Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch’s experiment gave a “conforming” answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the time.

Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.

But here’s the good news:

Adding a single dissenter – just one other person who gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that’s different from the group’s incorrect answer – reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%.

Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.

If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government’s version of events, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the group out of its trance.

There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited article states that:

When subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity also drops.What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity gives people permission to “respond in a way that will not be seen by the group”. But most Americans still don’t get their news from the web, or only go to mainstream corporate news sites.

Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity dynamic — and the need for courageous dissent — is vital. It is doubly important that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.

Bottom line: Each person‘s voice has the power to snap entire groups out of their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality and truth among the sleeping masses.

And a recent study shows that when only 10% of a population have strongly-held beliefs, their belief will often be adopted by the majority of the society.

This is true of soldiers as well as civilians.  Indeed, if the soldiers, sailors, seals, flyboys, intel operatives and law enforcement officers wake up to what is really happening, things would change overnight.

Some historical quotes may be helpful in illustrating the importance of struggling to make things better …

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
– Robert F . Kennedy

We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before; and it changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise; we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.
– George Washington

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.
– Howard Zinn

If you don’t like the news, go out and make some news of your own.
– Scoop Nisker

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.
– Bruce Lee

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  • Hi GW:
    Thank you for your kind words about me in your intro on Zero Hedge today. It is an honor to be mentioned by you, and in the company of other respected bloggers.

  • Earlier today I read a post from a 9-11 activist Rena Patty (who is currently biking across America with Pam Senzee) that pretty much echos this sentiment:
    “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.” — Mohandas Gandhi

  • Brilliant, especially for some of us rolling the big rock up the hill.

  • Eric

    Ever pick up a gun and aim at someone? Your type of action requires that said individuals pick up arms against their oppressors. Ever had someone pick up a gun and aim at you? On the one hand you have people with idealogy, truth, ethics, and righteousness on their side, on the other hand you have a group that doesn’t give a shit about their othopponent’s “words” and has hired hands that WILL FUCKING SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE! Don’t call others cowards until you are ready to take one in the face.

    • Ric

      As Eric says until you live 110% intent to kill or be killed in defense of these words against an opposing force that will not blink an eye to kill you, then you can talk Holy about Cynicism all you want.

      But not until then.

  • Joseph

    A real hero believes he or she has a reasonable chance of making a difference, if not achieving total success. Only a fool acts heedlessly. People who make a difference in this world think strategically, and if they counsel against direct action, it is not from cynicism. Ghandi did not create a movement, he cooperated with the spirit of the time. He allowed the movement to create him. Huge difference. In the same way MLK did not create the civil rights movement. The idea that some Lone Ranger can right the wrongs of this world is Hollywood horseshit. The time is right or it’s something else. History has devoured more would-be heroes than we can conceive. The apathy of the public has a reason for being. You have no patience with this and can only see cynicism. But maybe it isn’t cynicism. Maybe it’s something you don’t understand. After all, there has never been a time in the history that we know that can give us a comfortable precedent for our current situation. We have no precedents for our time. No WMD has ever existed before that we know of. The world has never seen the like of the US military machine and its capacity for “full spectrum dominance”. They dominate a man from his ass hole to his crown chakra and they destroy nations for sport. The global population has gone beyond any bounds reasonable people conceived of, including Malthus, and the influence of this out-of-control species is having a direct effect on the planet per AGW, if you accept that idea. We have ventured into space. We have created a global communications technology. And yet, we need an old fashioned revolution such as Jefferson conceived. We need more democracy, not less. We need to throw off the evil influence of a national security state that has nearly extinguished the light of liberty. Etc etc etc. I’m not cynical in the least. I guess you might say that I’m modest. Maybe I’m scared, too. Maybe public apathy is concealing a deep and abiding fear, not cynicism. It might be a good idea to examine that a little more deeply.

    • I agree with this. The current situation needs new ideas.

      Those new ideas must have proven to work before most people want to consider it.

      But… success can spread fast in the age of Internet.

      You can have a complete World Revolution in a period of two years.

      Only you need the right ideas to begin with.

    • You’re right. However, a Lone Ranger can inspire masses to lead and make a change for the better. In modern history, Imam Khomeini, proved that. MLK had many dreams – but most of them shattered as not much has changed for the great majority of Afro-Americans (12.6% of country’s total population) in the US.

      Imam Khomeini’s lead 1979 Revolution changed Iran from a US-Israel colony into a world-player in the Middle East.

      “Today the war between truth and falsehood; the war between the rich and the poor; the war between the weak and the arrogant – has started. I kiss the hands of all who have stood up to fight throughout the world in the path of Allah and in the path of giving dignity to the Muslims. I give my sincere greetings to the free sparrows, to the dear nation…,” – Imam Khomeini.

  • Mike

    I was cynical in the 90’s, complacent in the 00’s (before children) and now understand that the future is controlled by personally accepting responsibility and owning our own actions. (and doing rather than providing a detached commentary)

  • The psychology of the bully religion, and how many converts it has, needs to be considered before diagnosis and treatment.

    In many cases mere evangelism may work.

  • MVP

    Yeah – that’s how my friend ended up in jail…while his wife and 6 kids had to end for themselves. It can’t and won’t change because Americans are lazy, obese, drugged, and stupid. I have tried to make them understand, but they prefer the lies. They do not want to understand the truth – they’d rather play the “red/blue”, “Democrat/Republican” game.

  • Tom Evans

    If everyone who wants to do something would understand the situation for what it is: realize the ones who make this happen to our world are the ones who TELL the leaders what they WILL DO. Please don’t think that the Bilderbergs are tin-foil hat territory. We have no recourse with these entities who have designed the NWO.
    I think that is more realistic than cynical. And I believe strategy will have more to do with good results than random activism. it quite demanding to keep a strong energy in the face of this on-going disregard for rights and comforts. When enough folks recognize that ‘the conspiracy’ is something you can watch like a sports event, then we will be on the side of mass in motion and they will still be the small number of entities( I cannot call them individuals or souls) that will have less and less places to hide. Then they can be the ones who will be uttering WTF at every turn of their heartless, black-hole heads. These parasites are tenacious and willing to do what we, individually, would NOT even consider. This is what we’re up against imho. But the mass in motion will not be making any distinctions when purging these elements from our life conditions. So be it. Eventually, they’re SCREWED.

  • gozounlimited

    No Rationalization, Fear and Laziness on Washington’s Blog >>>>>> U.S. cuts greenhouse gases despite do-nothing Congress

    A curious thing is happening to the air in the United States. It’s getting cleaner….. oh yes it is …. it’s YOU!!!!!!! see here:

    Stayin’ Alive ….

    How deep is your love? …..

    Thank You ….. LOVE YOU!

  • Richard Grant

    After decades of political sabotage by both the Republican and Democratic Parties the time has arrived for the Independent Voter to come forward, stand up and take back control of our country on behalf of We The People.

    In the beginning our Founding Fathers envisioned a government, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated almost a century later at Gettysburg, of the people, by the people, for the people. Now, after a century of political betrayal, that vision has become terribly distorted.

    To better understand this betrayal and why our elected leaders have been all too willing to lead our country to the brink of economic defeat one would need to understand who has and controls the power.

    On a global level, relative to the United States, the top three tiers of power are:

    European banking cartels / financial empires
    Major corporations
    Major religions
    These groups are referred to, in political terms, as Special Interest.

    An example of how Special Interest affects the American taxpayer can be demonstrated by looking at why the U.S. attacked Iraq. Wars are fought for economic gain. Iraq was no different. The question is who gained economically and at whose expense? In the case of Iraq the major corporations of the military industrial complex benefited to the tune of 100s of billions of dollars. The total cost of the war was financed by the central banks. The war was conducted, on many levels, in the name of God while the American taxpayer was saddled with the trillion dollars plus expense.

    As we move forward to the National level and relative to We The People, the interests protected by our elected officials, in order of importance, are:

    Special Interest
    The interests of the two major political parties
    The self interests of the politicians
    The interests of We The People
    Why have the interests of We The People been dropped to the bottom when the Founding Fathers had envisioned them to be at the top? The answer is simple, money.

    In order to conduct a successful election campaign one must be fully capitalized to levels that go beyond belief. The primary source of this funding comes from Special Interest. The secondary source of this funding comes from the major political parties, which again comes from Special Interest. Two ways in which Special Interest fund political war chests is through direct lobbing or direct intervention by the Parties. Smaller Interests will send individual lobbyists to seek out and finance candidates or office holders, in the form of campaign contributions, to support their causes. Larger Interests will go directly to the Parties, whom they support financially, and have them intercede directly with the members on their behalf. Have you ever heard the saying “Towing the Party line”?

    In a general sense the election results are not too critical to Special Interest. They hedge their positions by supporting both sides and the winner owes.

    Unfortunately, Special Interest has the financial resources to offer far more support to the Parties and their members than does the individual American. Since money is the mother’s milk of political success it’s easy to understand why Politicians live by the second Golden Rule, which is; “He who has the gold makes the rules”.

    Now instead of a government that places the interests of the people first we have one that places the needs of Special Interest, Party and the self-interests of Politician’s far ahead of those for whom it was intended. This betrayal has taken the most prosperous country in the history of man to the point of economic collapse which, if not corrected immediately, will eventually leave a large majority of trusting, hard-working Americans in financial ruin.

    Ridding our government of this betrayal is not that difficult of a task. In fact the turn about can be accomplished in one Presidential election.

    The solution will require 470 Americans coming together as a single unit, vying for the 435 House seats, the 33 Senate seats and the office of President and Vice President, with the full support of the Independent Voter, offering an election platform that includes:

    1. Outlaw Political Parties.

    Any entity whose interests come before those of We The People cannot be allowed to exist.

    2. Make it an act of treason for any elected office holder or person running for elected office to accept financial or personal benefit for influence.

    The country desperately needs independent thinkers acting independently for the best interests of We The People.

    By removing Special Interest from the equation our elected officials should be able to find better solutions for the issues facing our country in a much shorter time frame.

    The cost and time to conduct election campaigns can be greatly reduced with the Internet and public access television. Not only will these medium prohibit the ability for the buying of influence it will also open the field to other qualified Americans instead of the over whelming number of “connected” attorneys.

    3. Reform congressional benefits to resemble those of mainstream America.

    The perks and benefits congress provides them at the taxpayer’s expense are absurd. They need to be repealed and safeguards structured so future generations will not have the ability to bring them back.

    Presently the Independent Voter represents 40% of the United States electorate. By splitting the remaining 60% between the Republicans and Democrats the Independent candidates would prevail and real change could begin to be enacted. Taking full control of the senate could take two years as for the first time in history Republicans and Democrats would begin working together, not for the interests of We The People but for their own. Then again a mandate this enormous would be hard to ignore.

    Time is running out for our country and the political corruption needs to be flushed from the system before it’s too late. Replacing
    Party Members with different Party Members has not worked for over a century. The only answer is to replace them all and, with the implementation of new constitutional amendments, insure the interests of We The People are forever protected.

    • Pappy


  • jim m.

    One additional voice in support of what Mr Grant says here. We must come together as independent voters and thinkers to replace all or very near all incumbents with citizen legislators who offer their temporary service (term limited to 2 six year terms, paid well and with excellent benefits while in service to the country) to help the country pull back from the precipace. Our masters should not be the special interest groups who have the money to finance slick campaigns and buy interest with our executive and legislative branches. Those special interest groups and giant corporate entities should be extemely limited in their right to contribute. The conscience of a corporation is very hard to locate. Our founding fathers recognized the corporate interests would vary widely from the best interests of the republic.
    So promote the independent citizen-candidates; offer your service to help their candidacy, vote for them even in the face of the unlikelyhood of their achieving election. We can begin the movement to take back the government and thereby the country. Our individual voices in dissent with the status quo can be heard when we come together with men and women of good reason who seek real substantive changes.

  • Nancy

    Here’s a suggestion that would clean up and simplify our political system. Enact a law, or better yet, a constitutional amendment, requiring any future bill introduced in Congress to address ONE, and only ONE, issue. No back-door deals, no blatant earmarks, no 11th-hour riders, no pork. Pass or defeat a bill, then move on to the next one…addressing another SINGLE issue. This would drastically reduce the length of proposed bills (has anyone actually been able to plow through the Health Care Bill?), and would eliminate wasteful spending outright since no member of Congress would want to be associated with pork. Absolute transparency in each Congress member’s voting record would be established. Now you would actually know whether your encumbent Congress-person represents your views or not, and you could vote accordingly in the next election. I have personally contacted each of my representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to suggest that they introduce such legislation. When I wasn’t ignored I was told it just wouldn’t work (not in so many words, of course, but in political-speak). So … I recommend that each of you reading this contact your Congress-people and ask them to introduce a “One issue, no riders” bill. Tell your friends and relatives to do the same. Maybe somewhere in Washington there’s a politician with enough balls to introduce such legislation. If not, maybe somebody new, maybe even an Independent, will be able to run successfully on this platform. I can’t imagine any American voter thinking it’s a bad idea to uncomplicate and un-prostitute Capitol Hill, which has become hopelessly mired in itself and ruled by the deepest pockets. We would do well to return to the way our Founding Fathers did things.

    • gozounlimited

      Brilliant! Thank You …. What A GOOD Idea!

  • honestann

    While speaking the plain, obvious truth in the midst of blatant nonsense is appropriate, talk is not enough. What matters much more is action. Convert all your liquid assets into real, physical, valuable goods under your own protection (as in gold, silver, platinum, seeds, productive equipment, guns, ammo, etc). This deprives the predators-DBA-corporations and predators-DBA-centralbanks the ability to blindly and wantonly steal from you. Refuse to buy products from every group of predators-DBA-corporation that authored bills and bribed predators-DBA-government to pass laws and regulations to destroy their competition and protect themselves from prosecution for the vile products they foist upon everyone. READ every label on every product you buy, and refuse to buy products that contain “filler” ingredients that fail to deliver any value to you (but increase their profit and/or addict you and/or poison you).

    Find lawful ways to avoid sending your wealth to the predators-DBA-government. And when that’s not sufficient, find ethical but unlawful ways to avoid feeding the beasts. Above all, refuse to sanction the system, refuse to comply with the system in any feasible way you can find, refuse to strenthen the predators-DBA-government and predators-DBA-corporations and predators-DBA-banksters. Seek out individuals and small companies who produce good, healthy, natural products, and buy from them, support them, tell others about them.

    And eventually, when finally the SHTF big time, make sure you have lots of weapons and ammo, and know how to defend yourself.

  • 403 Forbidden

    You have mistaken pessimism for cynicism to start, and your analysis goes downhill from there. You’ve mistaken calculation, preparation, and networking for cowardice and/or groupnosis. You’ve mistaken running your mouth/fingers for actually doing something. You’re an ‘idealist’ like Robert Kennedy, leading from the rear and having a tantrum when we don’t see the wisdom of your narrative. You guys make lousy soldiers but great martyrs. We’ll miss your stirring, inspirational speeches. *BANG*

  • gozounlimited

    Pay attention to emotional energy in motion …..
    Love is more powerful than anger, fear, grudges….. Love changes EVERYTHING … while being better than anything.

    Inspiration & Motivation for success in whatever you desire ….. see here:
    Winning is a habit (Vince Lombardi) ….

  • MsKitty

    Interesting interview with Naomi Wolf on the attack on our right to due process via unreported legislation passed on New Year’s Eve.

  • Robert Collette

    Nixon went ballistic upon seeing one single anti-war protestor in front of the White House.

  • thisisahusk

    right, and this whole post is basically an appeal to authority.

  • hypokrites

    a lot of people confuse cynicism with pessimism in order to further their own ‘ethical’ gratification.

    “The pessimist – i.e. the cynic – is sure he’ll fail. ” … There is a difference between understanding and giving up, you obviously should be more concerned about confusing those two ideas.

  • Jesus hellyeah

    Pessimism is the main foundation in cynicism. Cynicism is the philosophy of prime fear, pessimism and fear is the same side of the colin.

  • Lee McLaren

    There is optimism in cynicism, and it’s actually a healthy thing in our modern civilization. People in North America seem to forget about pessimism, they only know of optimism (stay positive) and cynicism they see as optimism’s polar opposite; but pessimism is the polar opposite of optimism and cynicism resides between the two; a fair, unbiased and more accurate world view. And since maintaining balance is the key to health, then cynicism is mentally healthy. I’m currently writing a book called, “The Optimism in Cynicism” because of my own personal experiences trying to work with people who see me as a pessimist but seemingly don’t know what pessimism is. I think this distinction has to be made in society. Self-criticism and social criticism have been stomped out for good reason in America, but both are vital to effect any positive changes individually and as a society. Throughout history, the people have been the power for positive changes in Society, for more equality on all levels, not just economically. the People of America are the only potential serious enemy America fears. Dividing the public is in their best interest always, because they saw what can happen when the people of America get together and cynically apply massive, relentless pressure on them until their demands are met. That’s exactly what was going on in America when I was born in 1970. the people won all kinds of rights and equality for themselves. That is called democracy. Pure, absolute democracy would be a 50/50 split of the power and wealth of a nation between the governing institutions and the public it serves and represents. 99% vs, 1% is not a democracy. It’s a plutocracy. And the true cry of the apathetic is “Just Stay Positive” today.

  • :)

    Literraly nobody in the comment section got the point. What a surprise.

  • :)
  • Boris

    Lack of cynicism and moral certainty are far greater signs of cowardice. If you need to believe in a world of moral certainty because you’re too afraid to see that ambiguity is the true face of reality then you’re a weak coward.