Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Idealism and Realism

The Heretik
It’s already starting to get thick.  You can be an idealist.  Or a realist.  But you cannot be both. Unless you are a politician.  Than you can be  everything to everybody.  Or nothing. That’s pragmatic BS.
I must respectfully disagree. An idealist is someone who believes we can achieve great things. A realist is someone who knows that doing so will require a lot of hard work.

I like to distinguish idealists from ideologues. Idealists are guided by their ideals, but they don't let them blind them to the reality of the world they live in. An ideologue, on the other hand, mocks the very idea that idealism should bow to pragmatic conditions. An ideologue suggests that anyone who acknowledges limitations lacks the faith necessary to enact real change (the Republican version of this is the "faith-based community").

I despise ideologues of all stripes. Ideologues short-circuit nascent change with their cries of "sellout!" any time a practical leader compromises in order to achieve long-term goals. They attack their allies with greater vigor than they do their enemies. Then they complain when no one wants to work with them to achieve their goals.

I admire idealists who temper their actions with realism while not letting realism destroy their faith in their ideals. It's a tough row to hoe and not one for the faint of heart. Especially when dealing with the ideologues who question their resolve (or just sneeringly call them "politicians").

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