There are three attitudes towards unpleasant and disappointing things in life: idealism, realism and cynicism, which according to researchers, have a significant impact on people in youth, middle age and old age respectively.
People in their teens and twenties tend to embrace idealism and have a strong sense of justice. They act angrily to unfair and ugly things and idealistically want to take sweeping corrective actions. That may explain why they led the charge in many social movements, such as the anti-Confucianism campaign, the battle against feudal ethnical code, attempts to eliminate feudalism, capitalism and revisionism, and Occupy Wallstreet.
Middle-aged practical idealists want to do something useful, such as participating in public interest activities, discussing current affairs, and joining activities organized by civil society organizations. But they know well that their efforts don’t have a strong impact and therefore, they don’t expect to make a real difference in the world.
But it is not the same for middle-aged cynics. They believe that it is not worth the effort to change the fact that the world is ugly and people are generally selfish, because individuals don’t have the potential to do so. As a result, they argue, it is better to follow the herd and make a fast buck at every opportunity. But such an opportunity is available to the few cynics in power, and the rest just muddle through and feign ignorance on certain issues. Also, in the face of unfair things, they stay aloof. To overcome the feelings of guilt, they even blame the victim on behalf of the perpetrator, claiming that there must be a reason for their misfortunes: they are foolish, uncareful and thus bring this upon themselves.
People in advanced years are most prone to cynicism. As one grows older, he gains more life experience which may help him become wiser, or unfortunately, more cynical.