By Tom Peterson
We all know someone who tries—and sometimes succeeds—to make us feel bad about our efforts and ideals. At some point we’ve probably even let their one small comment crush our spirit. Ray Bradbury tells us to ditch those bad “friends.” Speaking to an audience of aspiring writers he offered this advice: “Get rid of those friends of yours who make fun of you and don’t believe in you. When you leave here tonight, go home, make a phone call and fire them. Anyone who doesn’t believe in you and your future, to hell with them!”
Follow this advice and you will look back in a few months with a sigh of relief, having cut loose a source of dragging negativity.
But there’s another form of cynicism to watch for that’s closer to home. And it may be fueled by the messages we get from the airwaves. In a “Fresh Air” interview singer/songwriter and activist Billy Bragg said that our biggest enemy is our own cynicism, “…our own sense that nothing will ever change, that nobody cares about this stuff, that all politicians are the same.”
That’s what those right-wing [news] outlets want you to believe. They want you to believe nobody else cares. That’s why they have a… low-level war on empathy. If anyone talks about anything compassionate, they dismiss it as political correctness or virtue signaling.… They want us to feel cynical about the world and that nothing can be done.
“So if we’re going to make a difference,” says Bragg, “we have to be able to overcome that… we have to be able to curb it and put it to one side and go out every day and think the glass is half full.”
Hope, trust and determination are the antidote to cynicism. Embedded in our core is a sense that while our knowledge may not complete we can still act on what we do know. And even when we don’t have a spreadsheet to prove it to a cynic, we know that small action can make a real difference.
And it’s knowing that while at times we may feel lonely, we’re not alone in our struggle. We sense the vast community working alongside us. Even when our actions are invisible to each other, we know that all of our combined efforts join together to support the greater causes of justice, life and beauty.