Now and then I think of an aphorism that's so self evident that surely some guru must have said it by now. Perhaps someone did before 1990, but Google finds nothing for "cynicism is consent."
So I'll say it. Cynicism is consent.
I know I've just offended millions of proud cynics, but it's true. I deal all the time with the cynicism of activists and am sometimes accused of idealism when I complain about something.
As a consultant with 20 years under my belt in this business, I have also seen enough of "what really goes on behind closed doors" that if I wanted to be cynical, I'd be way more qualified than most folks to back it up.
Currently I'm having a small, polite dust-up with the Cincinnati Enquirer about a false headline on a story today. I don't link because by the time you read this, it will probably have been corrected. I'll post on that issue and its lessons soon.
When I tweeted about it, I got this tweet from a leading urbanist thinker whom I very much admire:
"You expect a headline writer to understand subtlety? Hah!"
To which my response is: Not unless I force them to.
I had the same problem with another Cincinnati publication, the website of the local ABC affiliate, a day earlier. Several people complained about a misleading headline on an article about my visit, and they changed it, fast.
I cannot begin to describe how much better public transit would be if people who feel cynical about it would complain constructively instead of languishing in the dead-end of cynicism. And yes, you have to do it over and over. Patiently.
As with many issues, public transit in America is neglected because of apathy, not opposition. The opponents are not the problem. The apathy of supporters is. And cynicism is a big part of that apathy.
Cynicism often dresses itself up as wisdom and worldliness.
But when you assume the worst instead of patiently, constructively pointing out error, you are consenting.