Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

If someone calls someone a cynic what does that make them? (hint, look it up)

Posted by jembendell on January 27, 2011

Only cynics call people cynics. Why? By definition, cynicism is to assume negative intentions in others. Therefore to think someone is a cynic is to assume they have a negative view of others. It is to assume that they are being negative.

To dimiss either skepticism or critique as cynicism is to ignore the perspective and characterise the individual as negative, and thus to exhibit cynicism oneself.

We need skepticism and deep critique for inquiry and so it is mistaken to believe it to be either professional or moral to characterise these as purely emanating from a person’s negativity. Rather, the opposite is true – skepticism and critique are the beginnings of freedom, truth and effective action. Moreover, we even need some cynical thinking when evaluating the opinions, actions and inactions of those with power to affect others. That cynicism of never simply trusting in the moral character of the powerful is at the heart of modern notions of democratic rights, accountability and the separation of powers in a nation. Cynicism of those in power is an agent of progress, whereas cynicism from those with much power, or in search or praise of power, is an agent of tyranny.

2 Responses to “If someone calls someone a cynic what does that make them? (hint, look it up)”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Free Trooper, Jem Bendell. Jem Bendell said: If someone calls someone a cynic what does that make them? (hint, look it up) http://bit.ly/gvZ3wJ […]

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