Monday, August 15, 2005

Why We Need Cynics

Right through out our academics and professional life we have been told about the need of positive thinking. Gurus after gurus have harped about the power of positive thinking. At the height of this frenzy one would often think that a cynic is a total misfit in today’s competitive environment. Is it so?

Cynicism is defined literally an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. Thus cynics are unable to believe what other profess to them and are supposed crippled by their inability to think positive. Thus in a modern and knowledge oriented society cynics might be regarded as those who stand in the way of progress.

Social thought process is the way the society thinks. I would like to draw a parallel between the brain and the society. As the brain is made up of numerous neurons the interaction of which gives rise to thought process, the society is made up of humans who interactions decide how the society would think. Thus what the society thinks about any subject is moderated by the extremists in the society. Now that would be something difficult to comprehend. We have traditionally seen moderates and extremists as two different orientations towards a common subject. But the truth is that there has to be two extreme opinions, a dichotomy. Let us take the example of cloning. There are people who support it saying that it is the next step in scientific advancement and other extreme that claim that it is an act against nature and thus should be stopped. In the tussle that arises between these opinions a middle path emerges which are the moderates that support regulated research in the field of cloning.

It has also been established that humans are diverse. Even though they are all physiologically same the mental makeup is different. Thus we have behavioral scientists advocating teamwork and diversity. In this sense cynics are necessary in any team to be the devils advocate. When a team moves forward with a key decision it is necessary for someone within to sound warning bells and inform team members about the possible pitfalls in the decisions.

Thus for me cynicism is mental makeup that makes you think about how thinks can go wrong. There is no need to scorn at cynicism because it is essential in deciding how the society thinks.