A few years ago, I first remember hearing it: the use of "earnest" as an insult.
ear·nest1 [ur-nist] Show IPA adjective1. serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous: an earnest worker.2. showing depth and sincerity of feeling: earnest words; an earnest entreaty.3. seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention.
I remember feeling shocked, then flashing to embarrassed, because I am quite often seriously zealous.
Then the emotion turned to anger, and I didn't like that feeling, so I put the entire issue aside.
Today I read the word "earnest" in its usual context, but I immediately remembered the whole earnest-as-an-insult thing and decided to focus on why it made me so mad, because it was a sort of irrational mad. Perhaps even an earnest anger.
Upon further contemplation, I realized a similar word for me is "hysterical." Immediate, irrational anger. There is nothing inherently wrong with that word.
Except that both of them have at times been applied as insults in order to belittle someone who may have a legitimate cause or gripe. These two adjectives both imply passion, emotion -- the exact opposite of apathy.
ap·a·thy[ap-uh-thee] Show IPA noun, plural ap·a·thies.1. absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.
2. lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.
I equate apathy with one of two things: teenagers or clinical depression.
When did it become cool for adults to pretend not to care about things that are totally worth caring about -- whether they are political causes or volunteering opportunities or their kids? When did it become awesome to publicly belittle someone who has put effort and enthusiasm into anything?
I'm losing my edge.
I like to poke fun as much as the next person, good natured fun. But somewhere along the line, I shed my desire to appear above the fray. I completely understand that I am not cooler than any other person on this planet, because I've given up on cool. Whether they annoy you or not, earnest people get things done. Hysterical people are often reacting to a very real injustice -- they are moved to get angry because someone's been mistreated and everyone's acting like it's no big thing.
Nobody would ever make art if they weren't earnest. It's too hard.