The Diogenes of history — i.e., “the one with the lamp” – was known as The Cynic, for good and sufficient reasons:
Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and when Diogenes took to debasement of currency, he was banished from Sinope. After being exiled, he moved to Athens and criticized many cultural conventions of the city. Diogenes modelled himself on the example of Heracles. He believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behaviour (which arguably resembled poverty) to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt or at least confused society. In a highly non-traditional fashion, he had a reputation of sleeping and eating wherever he chose and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to just one place. There are many tales about him dogging Antisthenes’ footsteps and becoming his “faithful hound”. Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He criticized and embarrassed Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting attendees by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having publicly mocked Alexander the Great.
You don’t have to approve of all of that to get the gist. Certain parts of it strike me as admirable, particularly his thrusts at Plato. But I digress.
Cynicism is largely misunderstood. It’s not curmudgeonry, a stance about which I’ve already ranted sufficiently, but rather a strong disinclination to believe in protestations of selfless virtue. The cynic holds self-interest as the default explanation for all human behavior, and insists on copious evidence for any other proposed motivation.
In other words, the cynic knows himself and assumes that others are, in the main, much like him. My assessment is that he’s likely to be right far more often than wrong. In this I differ with one whose wisdom I’ve often praised:
“I have sometimes wondered whether [Twentieth-Century liberals] possessed a vested interest in disorder – but that is unlikely; adults almost always act from conscious ‘highest motives,” no matter what their behavior.”
For in the decades since Starship Troopers was published, we have seen far too much “behavior” which can only be explained by a vested interest in disorder. Moreover, the evidence is so strong for this explanation that virtually anyone who’s lived through the Usurper Years is compelled to accept it… whether he’ll admit it or not.
And from this, we arrive at our contemporary Diogenes: the Sarcastic. In her most recent post, she cites a recent self-beclownment by a Congressional Democrat:
I bring you Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), a man that’s no stranger to beclowning himself for the cameras. After all, this is the same guy who once brought a bucket of KFC to a hearing because then-AG Bill Barr rescheduled.
On Tuesday, Cohen decided to go on a rant denouncing the “right-wing” Supreme Court for doing things like upholding the constitution and forcing the Biden administration to follow the law. In the midst of that, the congressman proclaimed that women and black people don’t have God-given rights….
COHEN: I’d liked to have asked him some questions about God-given rights, and he was saying all our rights are God-given. I just wondered when God decided to give women the right to vote and why God didn’t decide to give women the right to vote back in the, uh, 1700s. The Constitution was drawn up in the 1780s. I can’t believe God would say “no, women shouldn’t have the right to vote…”
…And when God decided slavery would be illegal. God was okay with slavery until we have a war where millions of people were killed and then God changed his mind? That’s hard to fathom.
I’m sure that sounded a lot smarter in his head.
It’s hard to satirize something as idiotic as Cohen’s statement. That’s Democrats for you. The ones that aren’t outright evil are too stupid to be believed. And yes, a healthy fraction of them are both. (Before I proceed, allow me to state it plainly: Most Republicans are no better. Politics has little attraction for the intelligent and honest.)
Unfortunately, Cohen’s view, dumb as it may be, is popular on the left. They have turned the US government into a god to be worshiped. No one has the right to do anything unless the overpaid elites in Washington give their stamp of approval. Thankfully, at least for now, the United States has a Supreme Court that is willing to check the Democratic Party’s most authoritarian instincts. That probably won’t always be the case, though.
Diogenes the Sarcastic lets it stand, in all its awful majesty, with only this comment:
I’m sorry, you’ll have to forgive me, or praise me (your choice) but I just cannot look at Congressman Steve Cohen and not see Lon Chaney’s 1925 Phantom of the Opera with glasses on. Sometimes I can’t keep from bursting out laughing.
In this she is quite correct. What need is there to poke fun at one who has already poked himself in both eyes? Perhaps in the political realm even sarcasm has outworn its usefulness.
There isn’t much more to say about this particular emission from a not-particularly-prominent Democrat Congressvermin, except for this: His constituents should reflect on what having elected that low a creature their Representative says about them.