In certain quarters, cynicism has a distinct kind of glamour. It sounds pretty tough not to have too many hopes, and to claim to be able to see through the dreams of others. Cynics will tell you that everyone is selfish and weak, that the system is rigged and driven by greed, that you can never succeed, so it’s pointless and contemptible to try, that all ideals are ridiculous, and the do-gooders are only out to show off their own supposed virtues. It’s hopeless to try to disprove cynicism. There will always be an abundance of vivid examples to back up a catastrophic interpretation of humanity. But what identifies people as cynics, is not so much what they claim – as why they do so. The downbeat assessments are based not on a dispassionate analysis of our species, but on an inner emotional compulsion. Their philosophy is, first and foremost, a defense against suffering. Beneath that gruff surface, cynics are afflicted by a near hysterical fragility, around the idea of expecting anything, which turns out to be less impressive than they’d hoped. And so they twist their mental apparatus to secure themselves against the eventuality of any discouragement. They disappoint themselves before the world can ever do it for them, at a time and in a manner of its own choosing. Cynics may look like people trying very hard to see the facts as they are, but in truth, they are trying even harder to insulate themselves against pain. The origin of their stance is not worldly experience and insight; it is – rather more poignantly – psychological trauma. Somewhere in the past, they will probably have been a blow to their hopes that felt too powerful to handle. Sadly though cynics don’t give away the slightest clue as to their touching and vulnerable backstories, they will instead talk stridently about corruption and manipulation, pile up examples of greed, and profit complex sounding theories about economics. But what they won’t do, is voluntarily or easily reveal how their father humiliated them when he was drunk, or how it felt when their mother ran away to another city when they which just five. The cynic, is never truly and completely cynical. They are still recovering from hopes that grew too painful to avow. A natural temptation, when encountering a cynic, is to try to argue them out of their attitude, by citing counter-examples, but this, is in its own way cruel, because it misunderstands what cynicism is about. It is an emotional protection. In essence, a mode of coping, learned under conditions of duress. What the cynic really needs, and yet fears they may never get, so naturally never asks for, is kindness. The kindness that may eventually help them to rekindle their stunted, secret desires, for hope, and fulfillment.