THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
|CYNICISM OPPOSED TO PROGRESS.|
By WILLIAM A. EDDY.
WHEN examining a question of possible corruption, or any form of crime, we find that nearly all men take a somewhat cynical view. So common is this that we may safely say that it applies to all who know the world. Yet a careful examination of facts, though giving us a vague idea of the real proportion of crime, must finally convince us that cynicism is similarly the sentinel on guard to warn us against possible injury from exceptional qualities in others. It is clear that cynicism is due to the fact that there still remain traces of a mutually devouring condition of development. But this destructive position in thought ought not to remain extreme long after the advancing light has modified the conditions that partly justified it. In truth, there is in the nature of things a check to the cynical tendency in the fact that the realization of severity in thought is impeded by considerations that involve some deliberation. Thought and imagination easily lead to extreme conclusions never carried to a practical result, because it is often so much easier to think, and requires so much less time than to act. In other words, the thought may be cynical, but the everyday action is generally in accordance with the assumption that men are trustworthy.
As the advances are made directly through the influence of practical and talented men, and indirectly through the deepest thinkers, it follows that a low opinion of the general intelligence and morality tends to discourage all but men of genius, to decrease the number and extent of higher influences, and to retard material advancement. One of the striking characteristics of the age is the promptness with which money is invested and speculative enterprises are carried forward. The prevailing tendency is to assume the inevitable success of a project, and overlook the chances of failure. In fact, the liberality with which our country is supplied with improvements in steam transit, newspapers, ocean-cables, telephones, etc., denotes that the modern spirit is far from cynical. The transaction of business, except in a limited and inefficient way, would be impossible if the majority of men were swindlers.
It is with much satisfaction that we observe a general conspiracy in the drift of affairs whereby a negative way of viewing things fails to become general. Affirmative and cheerful people have positive force that dispels the shadows of needless anxiety with excess of light. The friends with whom we are the most unreserved, and who exert the most social power generally, are not severe in their judgments. The cheerful man is a center of attractive force, while the cynic at times dissipates important and beneficial influences. In truth, the