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I had a unique experience today that I’ve never had before. I found out that one of my local friends knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. personally and worked under him at the very end of his career when he had shifted into anti-war organizing. My friend shared something that King said to him over and over again that was really convicting to me. He said, “Do not succumb to the disease of cynicism for it will justify all of your worst instincts.”
Part of why this was convicting was because I had just been accused yesterday of being cynical by a Facebook friend who flamed out and unfriended me since I posted some cynical speculations about the motives behind the New York Times’ strange dual endorsement of Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. It wasn’t a very useful Facebook post, though I do think this Facebook ex-friend may have been a tad melodramatically reactive.
Role - Cynicism - Media - Culture - Relationship
But it got me thinking about the role of cynicism in our social media culture and its relationship to “radicalism.” Too often, being radical has come to mean that you’re cynical about something that more basic liberals are naive about, whether it’s patriotism or the benefits of the free market or the benevolence of an average police officer. As a radical, I am suspicious and critical of the presumptions that privileged people make about the fairness and good-natured-ness of our world, but how often does my suspicion and critique overreach itself into an arrogant cynicism? Furthermore, does my radicalism represent what I am willing to sacrifice personally in order to live in a truly equitable, just world or is it merely an expression of my...
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