Archive for May, 2013

Defending the Cynic

May 21, 2013

The world doesn’t need more kindness.

We once had a neighbour, E. She would drop in on ours, or occasionally one of us on hers, but E and us were different. We were friendly, neighbourly if you insist, but not pals or buddies. Christmas cards, maybe. She possessed qualities many might admire; trusting, considerate, giving, warm, but naive is not a sufficient adjective with which to describe her. On the scale of Sarah Silverman to Teething Blanket, E rests comfortably on the extreme right, snuggled in her nap-time bubble of delusion. 

E is in her late 20s, and an educated and working chemist. E is very much not a technologically handicapped Floridian retiree, struggling with all things email but nonetheless delighting in the occasional Skype with the grand kids. E grew up with the internet, so what transpired a year ago managed to surprise even those of us who knew enough to keep the sardonic to a minimum when in her company.

Like everyone else on M’s contact list, I recieved this email:

Subject: Financial Assistance

Hello, How are you doing today? I know this might be a surprise to you but am sorry to reach out to you in this manner. I apologize for not informing you about my travel to Scotland for a Meeting.

Everything is going fine but there’s a little problem, I misplaced my wallet on my way back to the hotel and right now all my credit cards and money are gone. Am sending you this message to inform you that am stranded at the moment and need your help financially. Am not sure if you have that much but will you be able to help me with a loan of 1600 British Pounds to pay the hotel bills and get back home.

I will appreciate whatever amount you can afford to help me with and am sorry for the inconvenience this message might cause you but please understand that am in a very bad situation right now and would appreciate if you could help me out.

Please let me know if you can help!

Thank you in advance


You can probably guess where this story is going, so I won’t dither. She gave them $1500. The obviously poor English was not enough to deter our kind and generous E, desperate to do right by her neighbour. Nor did she check in with say… me, right downstairs from her. Nor did she think it odd for M to seek out her help (as opposed to me, her parents, closer friends, etc) and nor did she think to text M before she departed with 2 weeks wages, instead of after, when she meekly inquired to M: “did you get the money?”

A police report was filed, M eventually rescued her email account from South African e-confidence men, but there was nothing to be done. A cash transfer via Western Union without the need for the recipient to carry I.D. was integral to the scam, and the money was simply gone.

“But she obviously has a really good heart” someone said to me in the aftermath of the incident, defending E. I was (and am) still agog and aghast at the complete lack of competence displayed by E when faced with an adversary. The inability to recognize the devil when you see him is a character trait unworthy of respect, and if that flaw flows naturally from a trusting nature, then we know where to make our incision. We know what boil should be lanced. If everyone was like E, there wouldn’t be anyone. Humanity would have perished in the harsh prehistoric landscape, realizing all too late the grim intentions of our predators.

Cynicism is treated as if it is a dirty word, but to be cynical is to be wary. To be cynical is to insist that the world meet a certain burden before we give a person or project our blessing. To be cynical is to believe that the good intentions of others is not enough. That evolutionary acquired trait, that some of us possess more overtly than others, is one deserving of as much admiration as the trusting optimist who dares to help. We will grab you by the hair as you leap to rescue the orphaned gazelle, because that rustle in the grass suggests a lion.

Robin Lindsay



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