The Sunday Mail
Cynicism was an ancient Greek philosophy that called on adherents to follow a life of virtue with the reasoning being that people could attain genuine happiness by rejecting wealth, power, sex and other conventional desires.
A simple life was supposed to be a happy life.
It is an ideal that many people sometimes pause to ponder about when the burdens of taxes, school fees and utility bills weigh down: a brief moment of reflection before a phone call or the boss’s stern command jolts us back into the present.
Cynicism as a philosophy is said to have been first outlined by Antisthenes, who himself was a student of Socrates.
Antisthenes in turn inspired Diogenes of Sinope, who is probably one of the better known cynics today.
Diogenes was quite an acerbic character, and perhaps it is this mordant and caustic aspect of him that best inspires the cheap cynicism of the 21st century.
It is said Diogenes used to walk around in broad daylight holding up a lit lamp or lantern.
When people asked him why he need a lantern during the day, he is said to have replied: “I am just looking for an honest man.”
And it is said he never found one.
Cynicism as a philosophy disappeared soon after the times of Diogenes and Crates of Thebes and towards the 19th century aspects of it started recurring in modern thought.
Naturally, these were the negative aspects that the define the cynicism of our times.
Today, cynicism is not an ideologically grounded philosophy: it is the flippant dismissal of anything anyone else does.
It is easy to engage in and does nothing to edify neither the soul nor the intellect.
It is the ignorant escape for those who do not know better, or would those who would not know better.
Consider the manner in which Mr Aliko Dangote’s visit to Zimbabwe has been treated by pseudo-thinkers and self-qualified analysts.
Mr Dangote, as we all know, is Africa’s richest man. He is probably the richest black man in the world.
His interests are varied across industrial endeavours, and he is a man who is hungry to grow even bigger.
So Mr Dangote comes to Zimbabwe, meets our President, and expresses a solid desire to venture into the fields of coal mining, cement manufacturing and energy.
Our cynics, choosing to hide ignorance behind a feigned nonchalance, dismiss this as a non-event.
In fact, we have some gloating, “Hapana chichabuda”, “Does he know about the corruption in Zimbabwe?” “Why does he want to invest here?” “He should go and invest in Nigeria, I’m sure there are roads that need building there!”
As already said, cynicism is easy. And it is not edifying.
What do any of these cynics stand to benefit from the failure of lucrative deals that can only serve to spur Zimbabwe’s socio-economic transformation forward?
Anyone would be forgiven for believing that we have too many public actors – whether in the political opposition or in the private media — who would love to see Zimbabwe fail just so long as it culminates in fruition of their “Mugabe must go” agenda.
It is this same cynicism from these same unedified non-intellects that has spread its ugly voice across the world that Zimbabwe is not fit for investment as if that helps Zimbabwe in any way.
If they insist on their putrefying cynicism, perhaps they could do themselves a favour and go and read about the original philosophy.
In a nutshell, the key tenets of real cynicism are: freedom from ignorance, living according to human reason, eschewing arrogance, promoting self-sufficiency and achieving clarity of mind.
None of these values are seen in the self-hateful utterances of all those people who wish to see the failure of the Dangote, Chinese, Russian and all other economic pacts. It is time we started applying our minds and attitudes towards improving our situation as a country instead of expending so much energy in dragging ourselves down.
Because right now when we take our lanterns and look at all those opposition politicians, their pseudo-analysts and the media poodles that follow their lead, we find it hard to find and honest man, woman or child.