31 October 2012

Oh, Politics

This Regina Spektor song speaks rather bluntly to how I feel about the American Presidential Campaign just now:



‘Tis the season. The season of politicking, campaigning, debating and opinionating. Also of satirizing, mocking, and tossing one’s hands up in frustration.

I find it all very problematic because I am, by nature, a pessimist and a cynic. And I do not approve of being a cold-eyed cynic, though I often like it and somehow continue to be one in spite of my disapproval. I often find harbor in playing ‘devil’s advocate’ and this can be of concern at times because it is so very easy to mask real opinions and real concerns within the ready ability to speak with the mouth of the opposition.

Here is the trouble with creatures like me that are simultaneously so cynical and so black-and-white; it is not that we can’t change or refine our opinions. It’s that we cannot hover between them. Ambiguity is intolerable. Half-answers are despicable. Vagueness is a harbinger of death. No, really.

The temptation becomes to combine the pessimism with the ambiguity and create an uncompromising stance out of that. (This, I think, is what Black-and-Whites are prone to do, because uncompromising stances are the key). It looks something like this: put confidence in no one, expect no improvement, cast a doubting eye on all reports of progress, deem one option the evil and the other the lesser of two evils, all is entrenched, all is rutted, it’s all the same. Trust no one. Hope for nothing. Believe not a word.

Even though this is how I often feel—and even though these sentiments are frequently valid—I think it is evident that this is a bad road. Not that politicians are deserving of the trust and belief they’re often accorded, but a wholesale reversal of this doesn’t function either. Switching from rose-colored glasses to blackened ones doesn’t make you see better: it makes you see hardly at all. Yes, you will see the genuinely existing flaws, but you will also fail to see any viable truths, however few and far between they may be (see…still a cynic).

We all have to live with the fact that we are biased. We approach from given angles. We possess pre-existing perspectives. No matter how are we try to edge out of them, we just edge into a different angle. It’s still an angle.

So even though I feel like Regina Spektor is on point, and boy do I love shouting those lyrics, I don’t want to close my eyes and throw the whole game. You work for what you get…then you work with what you get, provided you keep your moorings the whole way through.


  1. Well said, I am like you in the cynic way. I wish I could yell a few lyrics AT some politicians...maybe then a point would actually get across to them...

  2. Very good points, and that song fits perfectly! I totally agree that despite our cynicism and frustration, we must push on. I think it is important to find (and be willing to see) the glint of hope that shows its face in these situations, political or otherwise. I'm not saying that we should sugar coat everything, but we have to see both sides. Without hope, we will despair. There must be some sort of equilibrium where we identify both the good and the bad, acknowledging both and making our decisions based on these things to the best of our ability. We can't quit. We might not be 100% happy with our decision or the result, but there is still hope.

  3. i have been ruminating on a blog post about
    cynicism, and you have given me more to
    think about. thank you for your honesty!