In Saturday’s DM, we meditated with Hannah Arendt on her book, In Lying and Politics, which seems especially fitting in this season of mid-term elections.
One of the insightful points she makes, as we saw, was that the surest long-term result of brainwashing is a peculiar kind of cynicism— an absolute refusal to believe in the truth of anything, no matter how well this truth may be established.
Is Cynicism on the rise in our media, our politics, our souls at this time? Are we asked to combat cynicism within and without?
Cynicism, as I consider it in my major study on evil, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, is part of the capital sin of acedia which Aquinas defines as “the lack of energy to begin new things.” Acedia is also understood as sadness, a deep, spiritual sadness, a feeling that we are cut off from goodness. From original blessing I would say.
Etymologically, the word “acedia” is said to have two derivatives. One is a-kedos in Greek, which means not caring. The other is from the word for sour. There is a not-caring aspect to acedia, a lack of passion, and there is also an attitude of sourness or cynicism toward life.
Cynicism is a kind of sourness toward life and is related to acedia. Webster’s dictionary defines a cynic as “one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest.” Being cynical is being “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives” and among its synonyms are misanthropic, pessimistic, misogynic and deep distrust.
Arendt informs us that a “peculiar kind of cynicism” is afoot when an absolute refusal to believe in the truth of anything, no matter how well this truth may be established prevails. Cynicism is one of the signs of our times being spread by some media, social media and certain politicians.
Cynicism seems to be growing these days as the sadness—and violence—of our times bears down on us. The recent invasion of the home of house majority leader Nancy Pelosi and the attack on her 82 year old husband with a hammer is one example of the rise of violence in our times.
The 42 year old assailant’s e mails inform us that his violence is directly related to lies and politics including the violence of January 6 (that some politicians currently running for office still call “ordinary political discourse”). He is a firm believer in Q-anon conspiracies (crazy lies).
The assailant is a zealous member of the Church of Donald J. Trump where many are called to violent action by the rhetoric and lies of its leader.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 189ff.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: An art installation showcasing the injustice towards women, particularly around domestic violence, an issue that has been pushed to the forefront of justice circles given the increased rates of domestic violence as we continue to stay home due to the pandemic but also as part of a broader awareness of our culture of violence towards female identified persons. Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you see cynicism on the rise in our media, politics and souls at this time? How do you resist that trend? How are you contributing to an alternative politics in the upcoming election?
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics