A cynic muses on his bruised idealism

Michael Burrill has come to realise that the difference between an idealist and a cynic is a savage beating by good ole reality… is that too cynical? Or is he just being realistic?


 Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.
― George Carlin

I spat the morning’s…alright, late afternoon’s…first phlegm, yellow with telling grey specks, into the sink and looked up at my scowling reflection.

The bags under my eyes and mucus flowing from my right nostril seemed to ask, “What the fuck are you doing with your life?”

I didn’t have an answer for them. I could tell it was going to one of those days…

I pondered for a minute before I realised that sometime a while back “one of those days” had become most of them.

“Hmmmph,” I exhaled pathetically, as the pounding inside my skull stepped up a notch and I sauntered down the stairs.

I hunched on the battered old sofa as I flipped open my laptop to check the news.

“Yeah, shit’s still fucked,” I whispered to myself as I scrolled through. Bombs were dropping and missiles flying in Gaza and Iraq again, Vladimir and Barack continued their apocalyptic foreplay and somewhere in the universe I knew Cory Bernardi persisted in his existence, probably informing some poor fucker of the potential danger of the Olympics merging swimming and equestrian after Ian Thorpe’s recent “revelations”.

Sometimes people tell me I’m a cynic. I feel like shooting back, “I’m not a cynic. I’m just a realist,” until I remember how much that sounds like the bastards that beat most of the hope out of me. Others say I just feel disempowered and maybe they are right, but I know one thing for certain – all their fucking patches, old-time hobo imitations and insular, mutual back-patting doesn’t seem to empower anyone but themselves.

Then there were the people that called me things like “bludger” or “scum”. I reckon half of those fuckers would throw themselves off a bridge if they didn’t have people like me to look down on. It was a public service as far as I was concerned and what did I get out of the bargain? Thirty five bucks a day and an unlimited supply of scorn.

Sure, I got to stand on tables while loaded and shout “I AM THE BUDGET EMERGENCY,” but ultimately, that tended to fade to another hangover and another hour-long wait amongst the aroma of disinfectant and bodily fluids that seemed to characterise most government buildings. I was treated like I was back in the deputy’s office at high school as I held back the urge to make comments like, “How do you quiet the gnawing black hole in your soul? Because I’ve got no clue,” or “Stop pretending to care. I’m just another Centrelink access number you hope to clear from the database.”

Alright, maybe I am a cynic…

It’s just that when one of my more optimistic friends says something like, “Change is something that happens gradually, but things are getting better all the time,” all that springs to mind is the NASA-funded study that suggested society could collapse in the next few decades due to inequality and environmental degradation, fingers hovering over THE buttons as resources dwindle.

“You need to cheer up,” they continue. “It’s a brave new world out there…you can find people to fuck in the general vicinity of your phone’s GPS these days.”

Again, all I’m thinking is, “I don’t know if Tinder and Grindr will be much use after the apocalypse, except maybe as a hunting tool for cannibals.”

It’s a wonder I don’t have more friends…

Sure, some days I manage to reach a state of Zen about the whole situation, my mantra being something along the lines of “In the grand scheme of things, we are just the blink of an eye. Maybe pockets of humanity will survive and if not then so be it, the universe will go on” and ultimately it’s true…

It never lasts.

As with many cynics, underneath lies an idealist who has been battered and abused by reality a few too many times. That idealist, bruised and weak though he may be, wants more for both himself and for humanity. He was promised more – we all were – and if we’re the entitled generation it’s only because we were lied to.

It’s enough to make a person wanna get loaded, stand on a table and scream “I AM THE FUCKING BUDGET EMERGENCY” while defiantly grabbing their stimulus package…again…



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