A Dog We Kick: A Review of Ansgar Allen's "Cynicism"
In this review, Roberts gives a surprisingly positive review of a rather cynical book; that is, Ansgar Allen's book "Cynicism", which Roberts wishes to praise.
Hi, I am R.C. Roberts, and I'm a cynic.
There is something about a confession that is like shitting out guilt; it is relieving, even when you confess what everyone already knows. No wonder the Catholics and the Freudians made such intricate, mystical systems based on this axiom. And yet, I do not confess to you, dear reader, in the name of guilt. For me, this is about making a point; the cynic has long been the dog we kick. From Diogenes to Rabelais to Mencken, our society has long used the cynic as a cr
eature of abuse. As E.K. Hornbeck responded to the charge in the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind:
"[I seem so] cynical? True, true, that is part of my fascination. I do hateful things for which people love me, and I do lovable things for which they hate me. I'm admired for my detestability. Now, don't worry little Eva; I may be rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread."
Like Hornbeck, I have spent my time being rancid butter, smeared on this or that side of someone's bread and butter issue. This is how it has always been, historically. More often than not, the term 'cynic' has been bent, turned, expanded and contracted to fit the people who oppose the ideas of society. The mutation of the word 'cynicism' has turned an ancient philosophy with something to say into a label or purported insult against someone who utters--in one form or another--the words of Timon of Athens: 'Spare your oaths. I’ll trust to your conditions.' Given the paltry state of our conditions, we balloon our oaths as a disguise, and few people enjoy being unmasked.
Nowadays, as the postmodern era winds its way down, its infinity exhausted by our anxious appetite, we have begun to try to--for lack of better words--repent. Many of us have embraced some notion of truth, even if it is a capitalistic 'my truth', as though we can own such a thing. Others have returned to God and religion, shivering and scared, willing to accept an abusive authority over none at all. Some of these sorts will delude themselves into a form of spiritualism, learning new vocabularies that, like hallucinogens, make the world appear different for a while. The rest of us give ourselves to temporary authorities--politics, science, football teams--that give us that small edge to push us through the drudgery of our lives as the Last Man, racked to a wheel of entertainment.
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