The cynic: A person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons.

One of our HR people asked me a few years ago, "How long you been with ___?" I said, "Twelve years, why?"   She said, "Oh, you're at the acceptance stage!"  Huh?  

She then went on to explain the usual trajectory of the aid worker.  

Great passion.  Big dreams.  Desire.  Energy.  Ideas.  Genuine concern for people in need.

Which eventually become....

Waning passion. Recurring nightmares (aka meetings and strategy papers).  Exhaustion.  Groundhog day.  Genuine concern for the direction of the organization.

Now, is that the employees fault, or the employers?  I mean, her HR snapshot of an employment timeline was not unusual.  She'd seen it all over her 20 plus years in and out of the same organization. 

Clearly not everyone (d)evolves into the "acceptance" stage.  Some actually manage to retain some sense of the original plan and do-gooder zeal.  Others just learn how to fake it.  But many, who got into this biz because of genuine care for the downtrodden, eventually get banged and bruised so badly.....  they become, oh me, oh my....  Cynical!

Probably not the beneficiaries who stir the sardonicism. But whom?  One doesn't get cranky all by oneself does she?

Surely some were born with the cynic gene, but not all. Where does all the cynicism come from and is it really cynicism, or maybe just disappointment over the incredibly low return on investment in the aid industry?  

It's not like any of them ticked the ARE YOU CYNICAL box "YES" during the hiring process.   As the definition suggests, "a person who believes people are motivated by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons."  

Could that actually be happening in the aid world?  Could there be people who do this work who don't give a rat's whisker about much of anything beyond their cubicle, their latte and their upcoming shopping junket to Bangkok?  

Ooops. Sorry that was cynical, right?

Do you think there might be some people who are motivated by other things, other than a pure, heartfelt, passionate desire, to help the downtrodden?

Maybe.  And they might be worse than cynical.  


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Replies to This Discussion

you're making me re-feel this post... http://talesfromethehood.com/2011/02/06/curse-drink-shag/

I like both these posts. I have my moments of cynicism and crankiness and snark after all these years but at the same time, I wouldn't be doing anything else. I think it's hard to sit down with yourself and ask, really ask, why do I do this work, what are my motivations and how to these sync with the reality of the work and the sector? What can I change, what is not possible to change and how does working for org. x fit with this?

I don't mind that I am cynical at times. i try to hold onto a sense of hope and optimism too.The thing is snarky blogs and rants from others in the field give me hope, make me laugh, make me think about things and help me realise I am not alone with some of the things that  I end up wrestling with.

I think there are far worse things than being cynical I agree on that point.

can we be both? is that so bad? :-)

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