Idealism imagines a better world, better ways of doing things, a higher standard. In bright moments it inspires some to pour themselves into achieving this better. In university-adjacent coffee shops the world over young people smoke cigarettes by the fistful, drink coffee by the gallon and pontificate of the probability of progress. Thousands of people with millions of ideas; the only universal concept: that the future would be determined in the marketplace of ideas. What foolishness. How many of these young, opinionated idealists are now cogs in the machines that shred dreams and eschew ideals in favor of influence, interests, and money? How many who used to strain to understand the big ideas and picture now barely understand what it is they do every day? Perhaps we are living with the results of replacing ideals with fantasies, principles with pretentions, and achievement with jackpots. Maybe ideals can never be realized, but in reaching for them, in striving for them there is progress. Fantasies, on the other hand, even when realized tend to be empty and meaningless.
I remember the philosophical hangover after the serial ontological orgies and ideological debates. Heads pounding from witnessing what-could-be get crushed by the-way-things-are and how-things-are-done-round-here. Intellectually decrepit before our time, worn out so soon with no fire, no hunger, and no hope. Instead of fiery discussions of principles and ideals we now seek mindless entertainment. Even the opiates of the masses have denigrated into ephemeral puffs of nothingness, devoid of principles, devoid of future. Yet with the disappointment that the world has failed to meet our expectations there is a grand hypocrisy. We become do-nothings blaming the shortcomings of society; but society is not done to serve us, it’s up to us to improve our society. A healthy sense of personal responsibility is an early casualty in the disintegration of practical intelligent pursuit of principles.