The definition of ‘cynicism’ appears to have changed over the years. I have always understood the definition to be ‘a sneering faultfinder’, yet later definitions appear to embrace the overall discontent of modern society. It is currently a definition that refers to the belief that people are motivated by self-interest, because they are distrustful of human integrity or sincerity. Cynics are therefore distrustful of the motives of others, and are contemptuous of the human race as a whole. I find this view to be both depressing, disappointing and a likely cause of mass suicide.
Spending much of my life working with children and young people was always refreshing and exciting, because children have no understanding of cynicism. It does not come naturally to them. It is learned and spreads like a systemic poison from their elders, as they grow older.
Of course, at the right time and in the right place, cynicism can be amusing. Recently reading a couple of books by Paul O’Grady, of Lily Savage fame, there is a healthy dose of cynicism, laced with a tad of realism, but with a generous dollop of hope for the future of the human race, as well as a positive view of the human spirit. Cynicism is closely linked to sarcasm, which I also detest, and fully agree that it is the “lowest form of wit’. It is not clever and rarely amusing. However, have you noticed that many weaker comedians, as well as many Internet blogs and posts seem to thrive entirely on cynicism and sarcasm nowadays? I suspect that much of this is because it is easier to vocalise one’s true feelings and frustrations about the nature of society, the recession, government and general woes, and cynicism is a simple way for the less articulate to be shrilly heard, and to let off steam. So, I guess in that sense, it does have a kind of purpose.
If you truly want to witness cynicism at its very best and loudest, the best place for it to be enjoyed is to be sitting in the haze of a British bar for expats in Spain. There you will quickly hear pure hatred, bigotry and cynicism at its delicious best, mostly fed and nurtured by regular readings of the Daily Hate. Most decent people will wince at the opinions raised about the European Union, the government (any government), race, religion, hanging and flogging, Muslims, the cabbage pickers of Lincolnshire, Prince Charles and, above all, Spain.
I never cease to be amazed by the “my glass is half empty” brigade, where the country that has become their home in the sun is often the brunt of the “they do it better in Wigan brigade”. Does Spain really owe them a living in the sun? Many expats are angry that the value of their property (if they own one) has fallen, the sun doesn’t shine as much and it is too cold, or the sun shines much more and it is too hot. Many go on to express their feelings about the health service (that they have not paid into), together with a lack of pork pies and “real bacon”, as they put it.
Many Brit expats refuse to learn the language, or even make an attempt at it, will only use a British tradesman, because they will be “ripped off by the Spanish” and will only visit a private British doctor if they are sick. If the truth be known, most expats will get a far better job done at a lower price by a Spanish tradesman, or better care provided by their local health centre. In addition, many simply do not understand the euro and what it stands for, and are bitterly upset when the euro gains in value against the pound. They still call the UK “home” and generally refuse to commit to expat life, other than to spend endless starlit nights in Brit bars. The cynical expat then wonders why it has all gone so badly wrong, they have to pack their bags and return from where they came. Once back in the UK, the failed expat can now eat as many pork pies and as much bacon as their cholesterol intake will allow, yet will continue to moan bitterly, but this time it will be about the UK, the health service, the government and how much better things were in Spain, where the sun shone. If only they had not left…
The message is clear. Be positive, make the most of new opportunities or challenges that present themselves, and above all, try to put something back. I have met so many fulfilled and happy expats in Spain, and this appears to be their secret. We all have bad and frustrating days from time to time, but even these can be exciting and provide a lesson to be learned, or how to do it better next time, and this is the true essence of expat life. As we are currently learning, many Brits are not good Europeans. However, if we really do want to make a success of expat life, let us look on the positive side, count our many blessings, adopt a “my glass is half full” attitude and, finally, cut out the moaning, sarcasm and cynicism. Most of us really do not want to hear it.