I am a cynic
As much as I have tried to 'escape' from being a cynic I am finally coming to accept that this really who I am. I want to be very specific about what I am cynical about ...
My cynicism is very much directed at all human institutions because of the hypocrisy I see in human institutions. I see these institutions exposing wonderful ideals but in practice these institutions often don't even try to live up to those ideals. What I have seen and experienced is that human institutions are only interested in preserving the power of the institution. And the people who live and work in those intuitions, while often good people, come to believe the institution must be preserved at all costs.
I believe that it is impossible for human institutions (more than a few people who work together) to move past the need for self-preservation.
At one time I was more of an idealist. I thought that if people of good faith worked together they could make a difference. But I don't believe that any more. A cynic may in fact be a disillusioned idealist.
Here are a couple of examples that have been part of my cultural landscape.
For over twenty years, we as citizens of the USA have known that something needs to be done to solve the coming Social Security crisis. We all know that if the problems in Social Security isn't fixed, the system will collapse and when it does there will be horrible consequences. We all know this. Our elected officials know this. In spite of this knowledge we careen for a cliff.
Our current Congress and President (as of Sept 2012) know we are heading for "fiscal cliff" but none of them are willing to solve the problem. They could solve the problem but these political institutions thrive on crisis. In the crisis the government, political parties and the pundit media gain more power. None of those human institutions have any motivation for fixing the problem. If they fix the problem then they become less useful.
I also have to say that I have seen very similar behavior in the "church". These human institutions will again do anything to preserve their existence. When push comes to shove about necessary changes that must be made to meet the current situation, the human institution call "church" (congregations) will do whatever is necessary to protect itself from change.
How many congregations have annual budgets were a very large percentage is used to preserve a physical facility? And when asked why preserve the physical facility the answer almost always boils down to 'how beautiful it is." Which seems like a form of hypocrisy because it really has nothing to do with the ideals that Jesus established when the Christian church came into being.
I am not cynical about everything. For instance I believe I have a healthy level of realism/optimism when working with project teams. The simple reason is that a project team comes together to solve a specific problem. The team's success or failure is all connected with achieving the solution. This encourages a project team to find solutions compromise and support each other to achieve the goal. Also when the problem is solved the team moves onto the next project. Hopefully they take a bit of time to celebrate success.
I go to a weekly jam group and I am not cynical about what is going on there. Why? Because there are only two agenda items at that weekly jam - create music together (often spontaneously) and enjoy each other's company.
Another area in my life that I have been very glad to be a part of is specific Boy Scout troops. The Boy Scout "institution" (district and national levels) I have the exact same level of cynism for as other human institutions but the individual troops are in fact places where I have see the adults and young men do their best live up to the Boy Scout ideals.
In the end I have faith that individuals and small groups of people can grow, change and be healthy.