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Cynics are the true clairvoyants

They hold up the banner of common sense when people swing to extremes

Cynics are easy to spot. Around this time, they spread the word that the year ahead is going to be terrible. Probe a bit to ask that classic question about the glass, and their response would be predictable — it’s half-empty.

Given these off-centre views, cynics are not cut out to win popularity contests. How do I know all this? I am a card-carrying cynic myself, and I believe it’s time we votaries of worst-case scenarios did a bit of brand building for ourselves. We disbelieved the stuff we read in newspapers decades before fake news became an industry standard. We complained that summer afternoons were getting warmer when Greta Thunberg was only the proverbial gleam in her father’s eye. We dismissed the U.S. presidency as a joke long before Trump took over.

The fact is the world is too trusting for its own good. Far from the “trust deficit” everyone seems to be talking about, what society suffers from is a trust surfeit — a gullibility glut, with unwary (and, ahem, un-cynical) people ready to get off the mark and spout passwords, PINs and OTPs to anyone who comes along with a get-rich-quick scheme. If only they had consulted the watchdogs of society’s well-being (us nay sayers). How does a cynic look? No, we don’t have horns. Nor is a scowl our default expression. My smile in real life is actually as wide as my social profile picture. And there’s a good reason for this genial disposition. When you constantly expect the worst, you are pleasantly surprised at what happens.

Here’s what we cynics do best: we make responsible account-holders in banks because we never believe what any bank says in its website. We hold up the banner of common sense at a time when people oscillate between absurd extremes.

When a happiness guru happens along and recommends a mantra that will dispel everything from toothache to heartache, we treat him the way you treat an e-mail from Ethiopia.

And when someone predicts that the world will end this afternoon, we simply move on.

jairam.menon@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:07:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/cynics-are-the-true-clairvoyants/article30770793.ece

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