Cynicism

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4 mins read

Before I talk about cynicism, an item of business. I am trying something new. People have asked me to host a podcast, but I have no time. I have 2 books in press and another in progress.

But I did see value in summarizing my work over the past few years, so I recorded a few videos, under six minutes each. I plan to do more. 

If you want to check them out, they’re here.

The Republicans say they want unity. Well, at the moment, Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are raising millions for Texas, even though the right-wing had painted AOC as a she-devil and Beto lost his election. As someone on Twitter pointed out, that‘s unity, not letting Trump off the hook.

This is because they don’t believe fairness and equality are possible. Their goal is to solidify their power and maintain a hierarchy with themselves on top.

With the cynicism of those who don’t believe goodness exists, they think all people are interested only in power.

Cynicism has been on my mind lately because (1) it’s a hallmark of fascism, (2) it’s a characteristic of those with authoritarian personalities, and (3) I’ve seen it lately on left-leaning social media. 

Mussolini famously said “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy.” Political psychologists like Theodor W. Adorno tell us that the authoritarian personality is marked by cynicism.

And now I see it on left-leaning Twitter. How? Like this: “Nothing will happen to X because the system sucks and is unfair and rich people never face consequences.” 

There are people who have dedicated their lives to reforming the criminal justice system. The system is better than it was 30 years ago and a heck of a lot better than 100 years ago. If enough people put in the effort, it can improve more. Will it ever be perfect? No, because democratic institutions are run by human beings and there are too many forces working against people who striving for fairness.

Remember: A goal of Active Measures is to cause people to lose confidence in democratic institutions.

I have another bone to pick. This kind of statement: “If X doesn’t happen it means rule of law is meaningless and doesn’t exist.”

Rule of law is a system of government that relies on law as the source of authority (instead of the whim of a king or the rule of oligarchs). As long as law is the source of authority underpinning the government, there is rule of law. 

If rule of law is not applied perfectly, it doesn’t mean rule of law doesn’t exist, it means that it is not applied perfectly because democratic institutions are carried out by human beings, who are not perfect–and because there is so much push back from anti-democratic forces. perfection is an ideal we strive toward.

Rule of law, like democracy, will survive if enough people want it to, and are willing to put in the work.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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