Cynicism

I was thinking about how a person can return from a life of chronic cynicism.

Erin and Mary are in town for the Midwest Social Forum, and since I am working Friday instead of attending the conference, I can’t pass any judgement yet on what it’s actually like. It appears to be a large gathering of social justice and activist organizations from all over the country, loosely associated under banners of democracy, progressive ideals and international social action. There are tons of sessions with topics ranging from “Crisis in Darfur,” to “Building a hip-hop movement” to the “Myths and History of U.S. Immigration.”

The other night as we discussed the conference, I made some comments that surprised me. Honestly, I signed up for the conference mostly because Mary was really interested in it, it’s in Milwaukee, and I also figured there would be some topics of interest to me. And actually, I am interested in many of the topics, I care about the world, I’m an opinioned person and I read a LOT of international news, but somehow, participating in something like this gives me a strange feeling. When I read the actual topics I feel like everything is going to be so liberal that even I will be irritated.

Then Mary said something about how they didn’t seem well organized and I responded that they seem like a bunch of hippies and therefore not well organized. I don’t really know why I say things like that, because I love the hippies of the world. I admire them for their lack of organization and enjoy their outlook on life. But deep down, I also think there’s no hope for what many such progressive liberals stand for – peace, racial equality, fair immigration laws, a world without borders, free of war and destruction and greed. I just don’t see that happening, no matter what well-meaning people of our generation do or not. Am I terrible?

I think I mentioned recently that my journalistic upbringing makes me feel uncomfortable participating in political events, such as the immigration rally I attended in Madison a few months ago. I stood, I watched, I took pictures, I made use of my five observational senses, but I did not participate. I eagerly awaited the evangelical Christian conferences I attended all over the Midwest during my adolescent and college years. I loved all of it, the people, the talks, the sessions, participating, music, everything. But now I look at this lists of topics which really matter in the world and I think just, eh.

When I stepped back from my involvement in all things Christian a few years ago, I was undergoing a young-life crisis of faith, values and beliefs. There was a myriad ideas I had bought into over the years that I didn’t really believe. I wanted to flee all that and figure out what I really wanted to be involved in. But nearly three years later, I still can’t stomach involvement anything. If anything, I am involved in pursuing hedonism. I want to discover good restaurants, learn about wine, write for pleasure, read extensively, garden, have long conversations with family and friends, but participate in politics? Participate in anything that seeks to change the status quo? Eh.

Fear of disappointment? Fear of being wrong again? Fear of becoming involved in something that I end up not fully buying into? Yes, that’s all part of it. I wonder, how do reasonable, non-extreme thinkers actually become involved in politics? Religion? Social action? I would love some feedback on any of this rambling.

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One Response to Cynicism

  1. […] A few weeks ago I attended some sessions at a conference called the Midwest Social Forum. The events took place at UW-Milwaukee, and as I described in my post on cynicism, I had very mixed views about attending. I stuck to the immigration seminars, but I still became irritated at the people who would raise their hands during the so-called Q&A sessions and give speeches about organizing protests. In one instance, the moderator actually requested that everyone please not give speeches, because there wasn’t time for that and they really wanted to panel to address questions. The first person called on came up to the front of the room and literally gave a three-minute speech. Sonofa! […]

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