03 January 2013

Modern Idealism (and its discontents?)

For all the chicanery and skulduggery of our modern US politics and finance, I firmly believe - and will argue to anyone's face - that these are fiercely idealistic times. After all, it takes a truly rare and ferocious idealist to be prepared to stab his friends, his colleagues, his family, his country in the back for the sake of a principle. Yet it has been done, and I'm told on more than one occasion.* Even to the extent of the idealist finally sacrificing his own health, sanity, or peace of mind to his Immortal Dream of - what? The perfect program? Or company? Or lobby? Or (gun-free or gun-ridden) political/economic utopia?

* And arguably by a growing number of key political and economic players - though so far their efforts seem largely confined to intermittent Russian roulette games with the Nation's credit rating, geopolitical credibility with allies, etc. 

Or, if nothing else, to his cussed sense of being right. Anyhow, here’s what I suspect many of our modern idealists – both public and private and even not-for-profit – are thinking (if only they could dare say it): 

“Please understand me: This task, this project, this program, this agenda, this enterprise, is so vital, and so worthy of our utmost sacrifice, that we’re not going to be satisfied with anyone doing merely his or her respective best. Do you understand me? We’re not going to settle for just doing our best. We’re going to do it RIGHT. Even if it kills us.” 

That last sentence, of course, being the only part they don't dare say. Not yet, anyway.

Now here's my question: Suppose the odd chance that there are, in the mid-to-upper reaches of today’s global society, even a goodly handful of bright, gifted, powerful, successful and extremely influential people. All of whom are prepared to make themselves and others mortally wretched for the sake of something they believe to be good in the long run (“maybe not in this generation, or the next one, or even the next . . .”). And that the great majority of them are not confirmed bachelors or celibates or monks, but go on to have children. And that these same children proceed to grow up, after a fashion. Or at least grow out of what was likely in any case a not terribly happy childhood. If gifted and highly respected individuals are willing to kill themselves and others very slowly, as it were, for the sake of the ultimate wealth or growth, or progress, or human perfectibility, then why does it surprise us that other gifted, albeit sorely neglected (misnurtured?) individuals, should fantasize about killing and dying very quickly, for the sake of the ultimate lunacy? And are even more and more prepared, it would seem, to act on that lunacy?

No comments:

Post a Comment