It Takes a Cynic: ‘If I Were Not Obama, I Would Be Diogenes’

Cynics would critically understand the realities of the Palestinian-Israeli crises.

By Dallas Darling

As a lawyer and one time activist, President Barack Obama should not have lashed out at the Cynics when he asked the United Nations General Assembly and the world to back his plan to forge a Palestinian State and a secure Israel. Actually, it is Cynicism itself that is sorely and desperately needed in order for a just and secure Palestinian State and Israeli State to peacefully co-exist and thrive.

It is unfortunate too, that the current meaning of “cynic” is someone who assumes the worst about human nature. However, Cynicism was an Ancient Greek philosophical movement probably founded by Diogenes of Sinope. The Cynics took their name either from their meeting place or from the word kynikos, referring to the free, unfettered-and always questioning-lifestyle mixed with contempt for the established social and political orders of their day.

Cynics continually challenged and rejected the tyrants and tyrannical myths of their day that caged the soul and spirit. They also distinguished between “natural” and “artificial” values and solutions, exalting virtue as the highest good. According to the Cynics, virtue consisted of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Cynics also believed and taught that knowledge of one”s circumstances and surroundings led to correct and right courses of action.

Today, Cynics would critically understand the realities and nature of the Palestinian-Israeli crises, along with its history of repeated injuries and abuses. Cynics would denounce and then confront the 1948 forced removal of thousands of Palestinians into makeshift refugee camps, so as to appease Zionism-a movement to establish an exclusive Jewish State at the expense of others who also claim Palestine as their ancestral lands. Cynics would work for fairness and equal rights for all Palestinians, along with repatriation for stolen lands.

Like Diogenes, Cynics today would have the courage to carry a lamp in broad daylight in search of an honest and just person. This would have included the UN General Assembly and its Security Council, thought to be a democratic body. Like the Athenian Assembly, though, they exclude the majority of people, or non-citizens, slaves, the poor, and, of course, Palestinians. By carrying a lit lamp in broad daylight, the ruling powers and their hypocritical forms of government and governance would be stripped to their naked and shameful essence.

The Cynics temperance would question and challenge America”s disproportional selling and supplying of weapons to Israel. They would stop Israel”s military interventions into Palestinian territories, and its armed invasions into Palestinian mosques and homes. Cynics would boycott Israel”s aggressive settlement expansions into Palestinian lands. Cynicism would apply the same rules to both Israel and Palestine. For Cynics, a fair society can only be maintained when everyone has equal opportunities for education and jobs, and when all have access to housing, clean drinking water, electricity, healthcare, and mobility.

Because of their virtuous poverty and deep sense of equality and justice, Cynics have often sought a more simpler, nonviolent and peaceful society. They have confronted and defied militant and powerful and unjust rulers, including unfair Old and New World Orders. The impulse towards Cynicism has at times been found in humanity. It has also arisen in all historical epochs. Cynics and Cynicism will again help resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crises. Cynics will bring about a more secure and just Palestinian State and Israeli State.

In hindsight, Cynicism has never forcibly relocated, killed or massacred Palestinians, unlike Zionism and U.S. Militarism.Neither has it ever been used for indifference, ignorance and hate, as some have used the Holy Land for their own unholy alliances and political gains and for their ethnocentric schemes. The Cynics “bitter words” have been used to challenge injustices and killing the innocent. The Cynics bombs are “Why?” and “For Whom?”, with regards to historical myths and tyrannical thinking imposed by rulers and their conquerors.

Of interest too is the Cynics disdain of hypocritical and worldly power. It was illustrated in the story of Diogenes” meeting with Alexander the Great. Having conquered parts of Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Alexander was one of the most powerful and greatest rulers of the world. When Alexander asked the sage Diogenes if there was some service he could do him, Diogenes replied, “Stand a little less between me and the sun.” Alexander was then quoted as saying, “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”

For Cynics and others who search for wisdom, justice, peace and virtue, then, the question is Zionism or Cynicism? And again: “If I were not Obama, I would be Diogenes.”

– Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John”s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for He contributed this article to Visit: and

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