By Linh Tran Huy
People have the right to feel blue when they are assailed on every street corner by the gloomiest strings of news they have heard in a very long time.
But waving the flag, crying our eyes out and losing faith in mankind is another thing.
The UN is a phony, cardboard cutout institution. It is the chew toy of the US and of all these veto-fans. A series of hands raised at the Assembly will only make Assad & Co. roll their eyes while the Security Council, true decision-makers that they are, will sit idly and watch the world burn. No fairness, no dialogue and no nothing. The French are long gone. The economy is down, the unemployment rate is up, and the current president has been exposed in intimate detail by the ex-first lady as a walking sack of hypocrisy who complains about the poor during his leisure time. So saucy, that’s probably why I had to wait two hours last month behind a line of chatty housewives holding Trierweiler’s new pièce de résistance against their hearts. America has a knack for fighting against concepts, but when the said concept has 31,500 fighters and makes over a million dollars a day in order to commit a genocide against ethnic groups and opposition alike, all hell is sure to break loose, be it in the Middle East, the West, or anywhere else for that matter. Oh, and one last word: Ebola. It’s done. The world is doomed. Lights out.
Cynicism has become very fashionable these days. It is the go-to-weapon when one wants to prove how much of a sophisticated realist one is. The reasoning is two-fold: Firstly, you have a lot less to lose if you are cynical, and 2. You will never look foolish when you are in the wrong. Whereas the optimist will be perceived by the people as naïve and silly, the cynic will be viewed as cautious and calculating. This appears to be a zero-sum game: if one does not raise his hopes up they will not be crushed, and to top it all off he will look intelligent doing it.
I am, however, unsure of the benefits of such a thought process.
There exists a concept in International Relations called “Constructivism”. Simply put, this ideology espouses the belief that the world is what one makes of it. Unlike Realism or Liberalism that provide a clear-cut explanation of how the world works, Constructivism advances that the phenomena animating IR are not inherent ones, but are constructions perpetrated by us simple men. The world is not cynical. People – scholars, politicians, us – made it cynical. If I start off with a negative impression of my colleague (who is actually a dashing, kind fellow), I will be less likely to trust him and might give him the cold shoulder at a dinner party. Feeling unwelcome and insulted, he might eat my sandwich in an act of revenge and will therefore reinforce my negative impression. We believe our land to be a dangerous, depressing little place. As such, we act accordingly – distrustful, greedy, guns blazing – and effectively make it a dangerous, depressing little place.
One characteristic of this vicious cycle is that when we think everything is going terribly, we will only focus on the terrible aspects. The UN Security Council is a joke, which is why this institution should not exist in the first place. Europe has a ridiculous rate of unemployment, which must signify that the currency is trash and that everyone should leave. ISIS is mutilating Iraqi children, therefore meaning that the world will be plunged into anarchy, finally suggesting Huntington was right. Unsurprisingly, if we are convinced that we cannot change something, we will never change it, for what motivation do we have in trying to solve the unsolvable? We unconsciously forget the other side of the coin, the positive elements that may one day turn the situation in our favor.
We lament the UN’s uselessness, and forget that it is not just a military travesty. We forget that it feeds 80 million starving people in 75 countries every year, that it helped reduce the child mortality rate in the world by a third in 20 years through UNICEF, and that without it, hundreds of thousands of refugees in Syria right now would be no more. We deem the EU to be an unworthy piece of garbage, and forget about the trade benefits of the system and the fact that leaving it would make a lot of countries worse off. We turn the Middle East conflict into a clash of civilizations, but a critical eye might see the exact opposite: that plenty of Muslims (be they the RMF or a letter from 126 Sunni intellectuals) condemn the stateless state.
The current international climate is in disarray and one cannot expect people to look up and see sugar and rainbows in the sky. Exhaustive idealism can prove to be as dangerous as blatant cynicism. What we need is to show moderation, to be considerate of all the facts, and it is through a thorough analysis that the belief in an answer is created, and that said answer could one day become reality.
Basically, don’t be like the melodramatic Lindsey Graham on Fox News Sunday.Featured Image Credit: Michael Coghlan, Flickr CC. License available here.