Friday, January 11, 2008

The Seeds of Cynicism

I spend a lot of time despairing for the future of mankind, but how can one not? When I receive an email from The Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Nigeria informing me that I must “stop the illegal act” of not having responded to a never-received previous post and wanting to send me an ATM card on which I cannot withdraw more than $5,000 a day, and I realize that The Honorable Minister actually assumes that I am…that anyone is…so astoundingly stupid as to respond, I truly do despair. How can anyone intelligent enough to be able to read and operate a computer fall for this garbage?

But the most frightening thing is that someone, somewhere, must respond or, like bedbugs deprived of blood long enough, these loathsome creatures (no offense to bed bugs) would all eventually disappear. But also like bedbugs, the credulity predators don’t disappear

Religious zealots like to be very fond of the phrase “an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.” They usually apply this to homosexuals. Well, given a homosexual on the one hand and The Honorable Minister on the other, to which one do you think the phrase most accurately applies? (If you say the latter, I know a barrister in Uganda who is eager to talk to you.)

Granted, the world abounds in the naive and the gullible and the lonely, and it is slightly unfair to lump them in with the stupid. It is to a large degree these people the credulity predators target.

Of course, I’m confident that science will one day find a gullibility gene in our DNA. Las Vegas is built on the firm knowledge that such a gene exists. States count on it in their lotteries: Publisher’s Clearing House, it will undoubtedly will shock many to know, is not in the business of giving away money just out of the goodness of their hearts. (And when was the last time you saw the Winner’s Prize team walk into a tenement to knock on the door of a winner? Just coincidence, of course.)

It’s wonderful to believe that miracles exist, and unquestionably they do. But in such tiny percentages given the overall population, I don’t even bother to try to fool myself.

I normally simply delete computer spam without a even a first look, but one today caught my eye. It guarantees to add one inch in...uh...what subtle euphemism to use here? Why know what I’m talking about. I was toying with the idea of trying to contact the sender, offering to buy three years’ worth on condition that they can explain to me exactly how it works. Obviously they know more about physiology than any mere scientist. The fact is that what you’re born with is what you got, and all the pills in the world ain’t gonna change that. But don’t bother these folks with facts. No, seriously, don’t.

I truly think of myself as a romanticist and an optimist. I do believe there is more good in the universe than bad. That there is hope. Yet I find myself fighting to keep myself from just giving up and being swept away by the continual—and, it appears intensifying—assault by the forces of illogic and incomprehensible stupidity.

Someone once pointed out that a cynic is a frustrated romantic, and I do not want to become a cynic. Cynicism saps one’s humanity, and results in Oscar Wilde’s definition: “A cynic is one who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

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