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May 2022

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After being ousted from the Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien gave a moving farewell speech that culminated in a specific request to his fans: please don’t be cynical. He said cynicism is his least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.

I remember liking that he said that, given how much grief his fans were giving Jay Leno over their very public time slot conflict. At the time I was 29 years old and approaching the peak of my own cynicism. Since then I’ve gradually adopted a more generous view of human beings. This is not because I’ve become a particularly more generous person, but rather because a cynical view of our species no longer strikes me as accurate.

I now think humans are mostly good, despite how reflexively we tend to disparage our own species. For example, when Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins died suddenly on tour in Colombia last month, I came across this very normal and predictable tweet:

The first order of business when a bereaved family asks for privacy is of course to release a toxicology report. What a society.”

It’s not important that this thought came from local Winnipeg punk legends Propagandhi, because anyone could have said it, including me. But it is a perfect example of the common fallacy that humans can be fairly summarized as a mean and selfish lot.

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