Our Inner Curmudgeons

Jonathan noticed my copy of Mark Twain’s collected works parked on the sofa. My friend stated that he was only familiar with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but not much else about the writer’s other stories.

I asked Jonathan whether or not he liked curmudgeonly celebrities and commentators in the mass media. He replied that only a few of them were worth listening to, and for only a short time. I stated that Mark Twain was one of the most popular curmudgeons of his era. He was a very popular public speaker who could go on and on–make fun of events and ideas of society. If a person reads between the lines of Twain’s most famous books, that curmudgeonly attitude comes through loud and clear. In a sense, Mark Twain was a social justice warrior of his generation.

Twain and similar public figures of those times were not blind to the abundance of dishonesty and outright lies of politicians and moralists. Twain pointed to this deceit and sometimes subtly admitted to having that weakness himself. He used sarcasm and parody to shine a light on moral dishonesty among the clergy and politicians. Twain felt some cynicism in that the machinery of social institutions will not work without dishonest leaders. The general public could relate to Twain’s commentary and speeches, thus making him famous in then-contemporary culture.

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”—Carl Jung

Although Twain was famously critical of the Zeitgeist of his age; he harbored many beliefs and opinions that he felt would destroy his public personna. Those ideas were written down with the caveat that they not be published until after his death. It is in those “forbidden” writings that my admiration for Mark Twain is enhanced.

One does not need to be a famous writer or popular media commentator like Twain or Andy Rooney to be curmudgeonly. In my opinion, all of us harbor an inner curmudgeon. We allow it to express itself in various ways at various times. This inner curmudgeon’s presence in our personalities is why we enjoy the messages deployed by our favorite critics and social commentators. Our favorite curmudgeon gives a voice to our own opinions.

“We have been God-like in our planned breeding of our domesticated plants and animals, but we have been rabbit-like in our unplanned breeding of ourselves.”—research professor and philosopher of history, Arnold Toynbee

I posit that even people who couldn’t care less about politics and current events have an inner curmudgeon. Anyone who has lived a couple of decades or more has experienced disappointment, heartbreak, and other psychological injuries. Part of our coping mechanism is to assign blame to others and ourselves. This coping mechanism influences our thinking to at least some extent. There are few people who do not feel curmudgeonly around tax time or when the boss expects us to go above and beyond without extra compensation. Haven’t we felt curmudgeonly when vacation ends and we must return to “normal” life?

In my opinion, a certain amount of curmudgeonly thought and expression is healthy. A temperate, equitable, curmudgeonly attitude is the manifestation of healthy skepticism. Without such thinking, we surrender and become gullible sheep for the slaughter.


The Blue Jay of Happiness enjoys this barb from Mark Twain: “The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Controversy, cultural highlights, Meanderings, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Our Inner Curmudgeons

  1. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Our Inner Curmudgeons’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  2. GP says:

    When I was a kid, my parents bought me the complete set of Twain’s works and I read each one. Now, maybe 60 or so years later, I have recently purchased a collected for me to re-read. He is one of my favorites.

  3. I read this using my mind’s Andy Rooney voice.😄

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