The title of this piece appears to be problematic. One can argue how cynicism may be confined to geographical specifications such as one of Pakistani type. But Pakistani cynicism may be justified on the ground that whatever its general meaning, the way a cynicism formulates in a society makes it special. Thus this piece tries to identify specific Pakistani attributes of cynicism.
Let’s try to have an idea of what cynicism generally stands for. First, it implies that all the ‘people are motivated by selfishness.’ Another most important and most common trait is that a cynic’s ‘outlook is scornfully and often habitually negative.’
As a philosophical term cynicism means something quite different. It was ‘a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed virtue to be the only good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue.’ So, philosophically cynicism relates to the Cynics and their beliefs.
In order to understand the wider meaning of cynicism, a diving into the history of the word may prove interesting. The word cynic comes from the Greek kunikos, which was originally used as an adjective meaning "doglike," from kun, "dog." Thus a cynic equates this human life with a dog's life. Probably that was why the word was applied to the Cynic philosophers. The great Greek Cynic, Diogenes of Sinope was nicknamed as Kun. It is told he used to bark, urinate, and masturbate in public.
The first ever English instance of the use of the word cynic meaning “faultfinder” dates back to 1596. It is in this sense that the word cynic found its modern meaning. However, this sense of the word may also be attributed to the Cynics who were wont to find flaws in others. It is this faultfinding which helped formulate the belief characteristic of the cynics of today that human behavior is determined by selfishness. (This discussion of the word is based on an online dictionary.)
So it’s two attributes which may generally be associated with cynicism: First, negativity; and, second, faultfinding. That means that every cynic, be he/she Pakistani or otherwise, would usually be showing a negative attitude towards every thing; and that he/she would, almost as a rule, find fault with every thing. What’s wrong with this? When the things are really negative, they must be dubbed so! When the things are really faulty, they must be dubbed so! What’s wrong with that?
In the context of Pakistan, where most of the things most of the times are negative, why they must not be dubbed negative? And, where most of the things most of the times are faulty, why they must not be dubbed faulty? Why then such a Pakistani, who calls a spade a spade, not be called a Cynic? In the same vein, why then such a trend or attitude not be diagnosed as Pakistani Cynicism?
Actually there is a truth, which is theoretically uncontestable, but practically sometimes may be contestable, and that is what I want to contest. Here is an attempt at building the various shapes of things they may possibly take.
First, all the things are negative and faulty all the times. Second, all the things are negative and faulty most of the times. Third, all the things are negative and faulty some of the times. Fourth, most of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Fifth, some of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Sixth, some of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Seventh, some of the things are negative and faulty most of the times. Eighth, some of the things are negative and faulty some of the times.
Hence, it may be concluded that in a real situation what may practically be not undeniable is that some of the things are not negative and faulty some of the times. It is this truth which every cynic is blind to see and admit; or he/she develops or adopts an attitude which makes him/her see every thing as negative and faulty. This they do as a rule which may only exceptionally admit of an exception. Of course, all the Pakistani cynics are like that; but it is not in that that they show any characteristics specifically Pakistani cynicism exhibits.
No doubt, Pakistani cynics see every thing as negative and faulty. They do not admit of any thing as not negative and not faulty even some of the times. Apart from that, what is specifically Pakistani about them is that they themselves are not negative and not faulty. This should rather be phrased thus: The Pakistani cynics believe they are not negative and not faulty all the times. In contrast to that, every thing is negative and faulty all the times. That’s their first Pakistani attribute.
The second attribute of the Pakistani cynics is that they believe whatever negativity (or negative things) and whatever faultyness (or faulty things) exist responsibility for that rests with all the other Pakistanis, and they themselves are never ever to be blamed a bit for that. Associated with this second one is the third attribute which smacks of an exclusive claim to the possession of the truth that the Pakistani cynics believe only they have a claim to. It’s quite possible that this or that cynic, be he/she Pakistani or otherwise, may be a perfect arrogant, since he/she is in possession of the truth and since he/she plays no role at all if all the things have gone negative and faulty; however, that may not be identified as one more attribute characterizing Pakistani cynicism.
In the end, it may suffice to add that in Pakistan the cynicism has found its way in all the domains of life, but the one which is most dangerous is political. Some of the Pakistani political cynics, such as Imran Khan, are playing havoc with the political system. The others such as Najam Sethi, Ayaz Amir, Ayesha Siddiqa, are there to confound, in varying degrees, already rampant confusion, and are influencing the political opinion negatively and to the detriment of the long term interests of the citizens of Pakistan. (In another piece, the writer would like to elaborate upon this political cynicism and its impact on the political evolution of Pakistan.)
This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on October 11, 2014.