Cynicism is awareness: An irrevocable awareness that discloses the homeliness of the world as it is. But more — an awareness that there is no escape: our world is the worst possible world possible and we are powerless to change it.
Cynicism is the casting of an all-pervasive doubt — an affirmative “no” to the trappings of social existence and immersion in the crowd; a declaratory “no” to the imbecilic belief in progress.
The cynic is not concerned with the crowd: for the crowd is the embodiment of all that is contemptible; disingenuous; and fraudulent. Likewise, the crowd is most distrustful of the cynic — and may, at times, be outright hostile. For the cynic calls into question the prejudices and dogma of the Crowd.
The cynic disregards the Crowd’s hope for the future. For the cynic, history is not the march towards a golden future – at the expense of the present; rather, it is a hopeless slide into decline — a flee from genuine and authentic culture and a people’s historical awareness of itself into inauthentic, mass-produced herd-men with absolutely no self-awareness; a mass of stampeding cattle with neither direction or purpose.
The cynic embraces futility. Nothing in life is worthwhile; and even if it were possible to find meaning, the ensuing struggle t o accomplish or achieve it would hardly be worth the effort. The cynic ”grounds his faith in nothing.” He expects nothing; and, in its most extreme cases, wants nothing. It is this feature of cynicism that individuates the cynic from the Crowd: for he takes no stock in “expectations” – neither public nor private. He is no longer disillusioned; for he fosters no illusions. For while the masses accept, without any serious thought, wholeheartedly the contemporary dogmas and fashionable beliefs of the day, solely out of contemptible conformism for conformism’s sake — the cynic sees through the veil of society’s hopes and desires — straight to their putrid core.
Cynicism, while generally sharing these features, can manifest itself in two particular forms: the despairing cynic; and the ironic or frivolous cynic. In some instances, cynicism may develop into a thorough and prolonged despair — a deep-rooted depression that grounds itself through a negative relation to the world, to others, and above all, to the Self. This genus of cynicism is the expression of a universal and global apathy; a withdrawal from others and the Self. An everlasting dread of the possible and the worthlessness of the finite. This type of cynicism is analogous to passive nihilism.
Cynicism may also manifest itself in nihilistic frivolity – a complete rejection of all valuations, and an anarchistic desire to manifest its potentiality through creative destruction of all hitherto existing values. The frivolous cynic relates itself to itself as the expression of the Dionysian impulse for the aesthetic; and smugly laughs at the irony of finite human existence.
The ironic/frivolous cynic shares the despairing cynic’s awareness of the world as it is — but rejects the evaluative judgment that says the world is “no good.”
This form of cynicism is thus analogous to nihilism in its more active and complete form.