The Cynic Syndrome

A Freudian satire on the element of cynicism in human nature

The world is not an easy place to live. Soon after being pushed into an existence, every one of us mortals on this earth is faced with that gruesome issue of survival. The three most basic needs of life – food, clothing and shelter – impel us into action from the word go.

A newborn cannot but cry on his arrival here, despite all that the world may have to offer. For he knows that the cosy environ of the womb that provided him with both shelter and succour is no longer available. From now on, he has to struggle to seek his requirements.

Even as his wailing – the only way he knows to attract attention – brings rushing a doting mother, he is inadvertently multiplying his tribulations. He has, in the process, added another dimension to his requirements, viz. a need for attention (to subserve emotional gratification).

The affection and care of parents, if one has the good fortune to enjoy these blessings, can look after this need in the early years. Sooner or later, though, the brazen emotional exactions of the world around him begin to close in on him, robbing him of much of his own happiness.

It begins with the first visiting relative who, while invoking divine benediction on him and coaxing his uninformed self to feel proud of his lineage, does not fail to croak disapproval of the slant of his nose or the curl of his hair. Some more critics of the zodiac from among the relatives would, in the years to come, seek attention by reminding him from time to time of likeness to the fauna closest to their heart while bestowing upon him titles such as puffy pup, mussy mouse, greedy hog, silly kitten and poor lamb!

During his early formative years, the cousins frequently ask for notice by showing signs of vexation of spirit over his new dress. Friends at the birthday party demand cognizance of their warlike abilities in trying to procure the same helping of sweets as he gets. His playmates seem always to fancy his toys more than theirs and classmates often turn yellow-eyed at his winsomeness to the teacher. His mortified neighbours choose to look glum when comparing his brilliant exam results with the dismal performance of their own urchins. The apple of his parent’s eye is made to feel like an apple of discord.

This, and many a similar experience in our days of nascence, turns us into a cynic – a description that need not provoke the scepticism it invariably does when you try applying it to someone. For is it not true that when we grow up to be ourselves, nothing pleases us more than doing a similar turn to the world in order to gain its recognition!

As leaders and politicians, we give ourselves to savour the intoxication of power over dominion; inebriated behaviour being the guaranteed way to invite attention. In an ecclesiastic garb, we often love to hold in leash the morals and ethos of masses – trying, perhaps, to get even with the avuncular character, who, in our juvenile days, saw in us the semblance of a canine pup!

The bureaucrat, perhaps, listens to the dictates of his conscience, urging him to teach a lesson to all those nincompoops who had felt none-too-happy with his brilliant exam results and his good impression on the teacher. The businessman among us relishes indulgence in the spin of different shades of money (as if to erase the painful memory of the cake he lost to that Martian friend at the birthday party of yore), proclaiming in the process: “I can eat my cake and have it too!”

The list of instances of conversion to cynicism can be endless. But I would like to finish with the observation that the more reflecting and the more analysing ones from among us take to creating writings such as this; they are the Sigmund Freuds of humour literature!

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