Ending the tyranny of Realism

An idealist is someone who strives towards certain ideals, who wants to shape the world according to ideals.

Idealism generally isn’t taken seriously. When people imagine an idealist they imagine a young carefree person who hasn’t yet acquired a knowledge of actual reality, which makes his ideals impossible.

The dark side of the idealist is then the dangerous totalitarian who completely ignores reality in favour of their ideals. Some Stalinist figure who lets his people starve because he refuses to acknowledge that what Marx wrote in a book might be wrong.

But for me, Stalinism was precisely too liberal, in the way that it relied on science (scientific socialism) to guide policy. Liberalism does exactly the same: it continues to create “realistic” policy despite enormous human cost (e.g.: universal healthcare is unrealistic, therefore we let tens of thousands of people die each year due to lack of insurance).

Idealism knows it rests on nothing but itself; it doesn’t shift responsibility to anything other than itself. So its only judge is the situation on the ground. Realism shifts the blame to some preconceived notion of reality. When confronted with the misery in society, they will say “sadly there is only so much we can do, people are naturally inclined to be ruthlessly competitive”.

So realism doesn’t actually refer to some stable reality. It simply takes the current flaws of the system and assumes they are part of some unchangeable reality. Its apologists consider themselves good people however, so they will be in favour of policy that softens the impact of this harsh reality. However, they will dismiss as adorably naïve any questioning of the necessity of this reality itself. Actually trying to change this reality will make them strangely nervous.

Idealism has a special meaning in philosophy. It’s a strain of thought that asserts reality isn’t something simply external to us, but constituted through our ideas of it. It’s time for the Left to connect this philosophical meaning to the common-sense political one, and accuse the realists for what they are: collaborators in the current regime.

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