A Disappointed Idealist is Still an Idealist

For anyone who reads my blog, please take my criticisms with a grain of salt.

I’m a cynic, but my cynicism is rooted in idealism.  As George Carlin said (I presume in reference to his own cynicism), “Scratch a cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”  If it weren’t for my depression, I suppose I might be a contented idealist.  But years of struggling with depression has a way of beating one down.  I don’t have much confidence in myself and I don’t have much faith in the goodness of others.  I sometimes sense that such a thing as goodness might exist, but this sense is far from my everyday experience.

My ideal of truth keeps me going, but barely because at the same time my desire for truth makes me constantly discontented.  And in general my dour moods make me easily irritated.  To be honest, I don’t like life.  If I had been given a choice in the matter, I would rather not have been born.  I try my best to accept my fate of having been born, but life is tough… endlessly tough and it just gets worse and worse as I age.

My criticisms don’t come from a moral high ground.  I simply feel critical and so that is what I express.  But at least I’m somewhat fair in that I’m as critical of myself as I am of others (actually, I’m probably more critical of myself).  I would share on this blog more of my self-criticisms, but they’re in some cases too personal and in other cases they would just be boring to most people.  It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid of writing about my own failings, although there are definite fears of being judged.  Moreso, it’s just that I journalled for years about my personal issues and for the most part I don’t want to use my blog in that way.

My critical tendencies are tied up with my identity as an intellectual.  I always try to give good arguments for my criticisms, but these arguments are secondary to that which motivates my criticalness in the first place.  My reasons may be logical and I may have relevant facts to back them up.  Still, my cynicism/idealism is what is most central to me.  Even as a disappointed idealist, I’m still an idealist.  I want to believe in something.  I want to believe that life matters.  And often I think about this in terms of my ideal of truth.  But I don’t just want to believe.  I want to know, to feel that there is something worthy in this world.  But I’m tormented by doubts.

I’ve at times tried to be a good person, but I feel like a failure in that regards.  If you were to meet me as a stranger, I probably wouldn’t come off as one of the more friendly people you’ve ever met.  I try to be at least civil, but that civility is often a facade hiding my unhappiness.  I want to be understanding and compassionate towards others.  I have tried and I do try, but all of that trying has tired me out.  I feel frustrated and angry.  I’ve been struggling for years.  Even during periods of my life when I was doing relatively well, I still struggled.  Struggle is the one thing in my life that has remained unchanging.  When I was young, I struggled with learning.  As I grew up, I struggled with fitting in.  As I started living on my own, all of my early struggles transformed into full-blown depression.

I don’t see much to hope for in my life.  I’m pretty much stuck in survival mode.  Just getting by is good enough, has to be good enough because I don’t have much else to show for myself.  I hold down a job and pay the bills on a semi-regular basis.  That is all I can expect of myself.  But this isn’t a good place to be stuck in.  I constantly fear that my life will fall apart, that depression will really hit me hard, or just some unexpected event wil shatter my precarious existence.  I try not to think about it.  I have plenty to worry about without worrying about endless future possibilities.

Instead, I try to focus on what interests me.  This blog is my way of expressing myself, a way of maintaining a sense of purpose instead of giving into just drifting along.  Plus, it just gives me something to do, something to occupy my mind during my free time (which is often spent alone in my apartment).  And the fact that some people read what I write makes it seem worthy in some basic sense.

In certain ways, I often feel like I’ve been dealt a bad hand in life.  There are certain things I’m very appreciative of, but other things have made my life very hard.  I don’t wish to describe the details of the difficulty of being me.  The details don’t really matter.  Some have had harder lives and others have had easier lives, and I couldn’t really say where I fit in the spectrum.  All that I know is life sucks.  All that know is that I’ve struggled immensely at times putting my heart and soul in my endeavors… and yet nothing ever seems to work out, I somehow always fail or give up.  There is just something lacking in me or somehow things never quite click.  I feel jaded.  I hold onto my hopes despite their having been dashed again and again.  Some people do seem to manage to attain what they desire, but maybe it’s just that their desires happened to coincide with their fates.  Whatever it is, I admit to being slightly envious.

I want to understand and be understood.  But I’m just a confused lost soul and who could possibly understand me other than other confused lost souls.  It makes me feel rather pathetic.

To wrap this all up, I don’t know why my opinion matters… but opinions I have a’plenty.  My only hope for this blog is that my opinions, even when overly critical, are at least moderately intelligent and insightful.  Or, failing that, I hope they’re mildly amusing and not too mean-spirited.

* As a note, I’ve been having a discussion about nihilism as it relates to personal experience in a blog post by Quentin S. Crisp entitled No Future.

Officer Shoots Homeless Man: Comments

My local “newspaper” has an active community of commenters, and I must admit I rarely read the paper version.  To tell you the truth, I find the comments online more interesting than most of the articles.  There was a homeless man shot by a police officer and it attracted many comments including my own.  Since the paper allows users to also blog, I wrote my first post about some of these comments.  Even though this is more local news, I’ll also post it here since it applies to humans in general.  If you follow the link, it will bring you to the post where there is discussion in the comments section.

Posted 7/29/2009 10:30 PM CDT on press-citizen.com

Recent events in Iowa City have got me thinking and so I’ll write my first blog post here. I normally blog on Word Press, but this topic directly relates to the articles and comments on the Press Citizen that are about the police shooting of a homeless person. Even though I don’t comment here that often, sometimes a topic captures my attention and some of the self-righteous comments annoy me so much that I feel compelled to respond. I just can’t let mean-spirited and ignorant statements to go unchallenged… although I realize I’m mostly just wasting my time. 

I’m not a liberal softy who believes judgments are never justified. I’m fine with a righteous attitude as long as it serves an empathetic sense of compassion, but righteousness serving it’s own purposes is serving no good purpose at all. Righteousness seems rather infantile when it’s used to exclude certain groups of people and make oneself feel superior. So, self-righteousness is one of the few things that makes me feel righteous in turn.

Certain topics really draw out some ugly comments. In the articles about the shooting, some people weren’t even trying to hide their gleeful joy that a less-than-worthless homeless person had been removed from the population. It’s just mean. I find it very strange how some people are incapable of comprehending that the homeless are people too and not rabid dogs to be shot down. Why is it wrong to care about people who’ve had difficult lives? Do these people want to dismiss the homeless because they don’t want to accept their common humanity, don’t want to accept that they could easily end up in the same situation? It’s easy to be righteous when you’re life is relatively easy and when you’ve been fortunate enough not to have hit rock-bottom, not experienced the extremes of suffering.

Also, there is all kinds of ignorance. Many want to portray all homeless people as mentally ill drunks invading from the Big City who come here simply to cause harm to people and property… . The homeless get lumped together with all of those black gangsters taking over Iowa City and incidents like this get lumped together with every criminal activity that happens downtown. It’s hard to take these kinds of opinions seriously, but sadly the people who voice them take them all too seriously. People were stating reactionary opinions with no basis in facts, and they’re ready to condemn the homeless guy even though he is conveniently dead and unable to give his own view. The homeless guy is automatically guilty and the police officer is automatically innocent. Oh yeah, and the bar patron is a good Samaritan by hassling the homeless to the point of starting a fight that ends in death. People were coming to conclusions about it before the police had even collected all of the witness testimony.

And then there are the people who always try to dismiss the views of others or make every discussion into black and white conflicts. Why can’t there be multiple perspectives? Why do we have to jump to ideological conclusions before the facts come in? Why if you question anything, you must hate America, the troops, and the cops? Why can’t I care about everyone and not pick sides? Why is the life or rights of one person worth more than another?

It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about genuinely caring about other people. I’m truly appreciative of the cop trying to do the right thing as is true of most people in the world. Still, that isn’t any reason that the public shouldn’t question the facts and the interpretation of the facts. Also, what is wrong with seeking to improve police procedure so that more lives can be saved in the future? The problem is that many of the commenters don’t want certain lives saved. Isn’t it a good thing to suggest that violence should be the very last option. Guns, of course, should still be an option for the police… but when dealing with a man with a knife who wasn’t near anyone at the moment a taser would probably be more appropriate. At least, let us have an open discussion about it.

This kind of issue is just another thing that depresses me about the world. I wish more people would stand up to such mean people. I know it’s tiring to respond to such comments, but it tires me more to think of people spreading their hatred and bigotry without being challenged.