Last Christmas, I engaged in one of those fundamental arguments over a simplistic stance, admittedly on more wine that I'm used to. It dealt with a deep and complex concept: are people good or bad?
I took a strong position on the positive side: people are good, while my opponent stood on the other side: people are typically bad, with some exceptions. My position was extreme, though: everyone's good, paraphrasing the somewhat famous "to er mundo e güeno" that proved the point many years ago by filming regular people being pushed to their limits and still showing extraordinary levels of patience and understanding.
If we take aside the oversimplification of the argument, where no it depends are allowed (as it should be in any respectable Christmas discussion), I was genuinely surprised to confront someone that truly believed that the majority of the people is bad intentioned. I've had my fair share of defensiveness, deceit and unfair play, but I guess the fundamental difference is that I've always believed those behaviors are a result of circumstance, of misunderstanding or of unresolved internal issues. If you behave like a dick, I just think it's not your fault (it could well be mine, indeed).
I realized during that conversation that this is a fundamental principle I act upon without even noticing it. I wondered then what it would look like to live in a world where you believe most people are harmful. Trusting someone is impossible. Suspicion rules your relationships. You must adopt a defensive stance by default. Openness is a stupid move. Smile is an expensive gesture. Criticism is the norm. You must carefully ponder everyone around you.
My god that must be exhausting! No wonder why that approach makes you age early and look awful. What's the point then, in taking a position that has no positive effect on you? Is it that you fear you'll be fooled by others? That you will be an easy target? That they will laugh at you? Is your cynicism giving you any advantage over others?
I've already written here: everyone agrees with the cynic, but nobody likes one. Optimism pays out. Expect the best from anyone and they will show you their best self. Everyone I've ever met is desperately willing to find a chance to break down their contention walls. And even if they don't, well... everyone has gone through rough times, everyone's been confused sometime.
Needless to say, I did not convince my counterpart on that Christmas dinner, despite I was expecting the best from her. I bet she's gone through tough days lately and was a little confused. No worries, I'm looking forward for my next chance ;)
Enjoy the weekend, see you next one. Cheers!