“Cynicism isn’t wisdom. It’s the key ingredient for the self-sabotage of your future!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
I finished the original quote! (For the story on the graffiti wall and the quote, see yesterday’s post.)
Upon imagining what someone might say, looking back at today one hundred years from now, Martín Caparrós wrote in La Pais, the French newspaper.
“Throughout history there were stages in which each society was able to imagine a future it wanted to build – and to fight to do so – and other stages in which, having achieved or exhausted or misappropriated that future project, it was still unable to imagine the next one. It is that sad and radical alternation between epochs that live the future as a promise and epochs that live it as a threat. The present one was, without a doubt, one of the latter”
A writer and commentator for The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post, he brilliantly captures the essence of our current time – when it comes to the future, many seem unable to ‘imagine the next one,’ because we have engineered cynicism into our soul.
Cynicism abounds and is perhaps one of the reasons why so many have become so skeptical of the potential for tomorrow. Cynicism surrounds us, it suffocates us, eats at us, devours us, and leaves nothing but an empty shell of hopeless wonder in its destructive path. Cynicism destroys trust – it is the fertilizer for negativity, a nutrient for dark thoughts. It encourages complacency – when people don’t have hope for the future, they stop investing in the future.
When a team develops collective cynicism, it enters dangerous territory – it results in a self-inforcing mind bubble of ever-increasing negativity. That feeds upon itself, progressively becoming worse. That negativity feeds a collective lack of trust in leadership and those around them; disillusionment with any motivational message that the leadership team tries to set; declining trust in any message they provide; suspicion of co-workers and business partners. Overall, the inaction driven by cynicism starts to stifle creativity and innovation; it slows down decision-making; it leads to aggressive indecision, which is one of the most destructive forces of our time.
Cynicism leads to pessimism – we collectively suffer the confusing path of high hopes and low expectations. The sad thing is that globally, we are a pessimistic lot; Our World in Data has the insight.
Many think we live in the worst of times, when in fact, we live in the best of times.
The overall result of cynicism? It leads to people, organizations, and a society unable to deal with deep challenges; companies unable to confront their inability to move forward; people stuck in a rut, often reaching into the abyss of delusional thought, conspiracy theory, ‘alternative facts,’ ‘non-traditional science.’ In doing so, cynicism eats at our mindset of hope – it provides a foundation for the rot of optimism. Cynicism will inevitably lead to negative outcomes.- because it is cancer at the heart of our belief in the future.
But an interesting twist on this widespread pessimism is the fact that those with ‘very good knowledge’ about the future and trends’ are the least likely to have a negative view of it. I’ve never heard a better argument for the existence and purpose of a futurist – we are engineers of hope, architects of inspiration, and vessels for the delivery of hope!
Conversely, those with limited knowledge about what comes next were the most pessimistic and the most cynical!
“Those that were most pessimistic about the future tended to have the least basic knowledge on how the world has changed” – OurWorldinData.org
At this point in time, it often seems useless to try to reach those with limited knowledge; their information-lacking minds are already made up.
But what about the former group? What happens when the information-rich, knowledge-possessed cynic gets their hands on the future? It helps us to know that they tend to seek out answers beyond the norm, find solutions beyond the usual suspects, and pursue ideas that are original and unique! Or, in the case of others, a little bit of a slip down the rabbit hole of alternative facts, alternative science, and alternative pathways. I’ve yet to determine how this slippery slope will end up for them; I do know that i have lost a few friends along the way in the last few years to this alternative reality.
But aside from those, it is clear that many others find their hope and restore their optimism through ideas that were once on the fringe. I found this gem, sharing only the section that identifies the cynics and their action for going forward.
For 25 years forecasting consumer trends, lifestyle, and product design, WGSN presents the report ‘Consumer of the Future‘, about the four consumer profiles that will dictate the direction of the market in 2025.
It goes on to identify these four groups, and this is the one that drew my attention:
The ‘Neo-nihilists: According to the trend consultancy, this profile is averse to the volatility of today’s world and seeks happiness and a new sense of purpose away from the mainstream.
Exhausted by global problems and distrustful of the ability of governments and institutions to solve them, the Neo-nihilists are characterized by skepticism. It’s not that they don’t care – they have simply realized that caring less can be an effective mechanism for dealing with it all. Although nihilism is considered a negative sentiment (akin to cynicism and pessimism), Neo-nihilists are finding that relinquishing responsibility can bring a sense of satisfaction, which will enable them to create their own rules, imagine new realities, and define their metrics of success and happiness away from societal expectations. Outsiders, independent thinkers, subversives, and dreamers make up this group.
According to research by Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury, 50% of young people (16 to 25 years old) feel sad, anxious, powerless, hopeless, and guilty about the climate crisis. In addition, more than 45% believe that their concern about the climate crisis negatively affects their daily routine.
Neo-nihilists are interested in speculative ideas and creative genres outside the mainstream, such as regenerative capitalism, chaos culture, hopepunk fiction (dystopian themes with an optimistic bias), or even games and psychedelics as a form of therapy.
To reach them, you need to show that you are on their level.
Who will be the consumers of the future?
3 April 2023, CE NoticiasFinancieras
I’m pondering this observation deeply; it is entirely new to me. In the meantime, I try to battle cynicism every day – it can creep in; it can become overwhelming; it can be mind-numbing. It can be depressing. It’s why I try to focus on optimism – because I recognize the alternative is to fall into the rabbit hole of despair and pessimism. I refuse to go there – because when it comes to the future, I know what’s next and what to do about it.
So should you!
Closing out – here’s a poem from ChatGPT 4.0 on battling cynicism. it seems to work!
In the shadows of doubt where the cynics reside,
Where mistrust and suspicion, like specters, abide,
A glimmer of hope and a flicker of light,
Can shatter the darkness and brighten the night.
To banish the cynic, embrace the unknown,
With open arms welcome the seeds to be sown.
For optimism thrives where curiosity breeds,
And the heart of the hopeful, to wonderment, leads.
Seek out the beauty in life’s smallest things,
In the whispers of leaves, and the song that love sings,
Let gratitude’s melody color your days,
A symphony written in infinite ways.
With each act of kindness, the cynic recedes,
As generosity blossoms, fulfilling our needs,
Extend hands of compassion, let empathy guide,
For the cynic within us, will soon be denied.
Surround yourself with the souls that uplift,
Whose presence like sunshine, creates a shift,
In the echoes of laughter and stories of cheer,
A fortress of joy that the cynic can’t near.
Challenge the thoughts that breed doubt and despair,
Seek evidence, reason, and balance with care,
For each time you question the darkness within,
Optimism’s light will grow stronger and win.
In this journey of life, as the cynic may roam,
Let optimism’s beacon guide your heart home,
For when you embrace hope and see the world anew,
The cynical shadows will vanish from view.