Recently, I was in a conversation and said some interesting things. I don’t know if its true or not but here’s the thought:
It seems, to me, that the U.S. is going through something like a “social dispute”. Basically, there has developed a division in the U.S. It has split into two camps that are opposed to each other. These are philosophies that are not compatible and even contradict each other. I called it the “realism versus idealism dispute”. As it appears to me at this time, these seem to be increasingly opposed to each other.
Idealism is based in basing life on an image of “an ideal world”, of an image of “how life should be”. It is primarily a “pie in the sky” thinking. In general, they are trying to fit things into a pre-conceived image which they like and find appealing. In other words, life is forced to fit into an image . . . the ideal. In some sense, they are trying to make the world fit into a mold. As a result, they are trying to force things to be a certain way. A good example is something I saw the other day. I saw a sign, apparently advertising for some girl group which had the name “GIRL” then said something like “G – go-getter , I Independent, R – ????, L – leader”. You can see what they are doing. They are using the letters for the word “girl” to force or fit the female so she fits American ideals, which were created by males. In actuality, these traits don’t really reflect the female character. In this way, they are trying to make the female fit into an image that appeals to them even though it doesn’t reflect them. This is a good example of how idealism actually promotes an alienation in some situations. It shows how the “pie in the sky” thinking tends to create a detached and alienated situation that is removed from the real world situation. As a result, their viewpoints often tends to become impractical. The idealists image is not generally sufficient to live by and tends to fail as a result. It may work for a while but it eventually fails. In other words, idealism tends to have a life span and is not long-lasting.
The great strength of idealism is in the fact that it “sounds good” and, in that way, is satisfying. In fact, idealists tend to as if wrap themselves up in the “pie in the sky” ideal as if it were a warm blanket. In this way, idealism has a quality that it makes the idealists feel secure and safe.
Idealism often gets wound up with “high cause” and self-righteous attitudes. They often think their ideal is the “answer” and the “ultimate”. This, it seems to me, is an attitude that comes from Christianity. Basically, “Christ as an answer” turns into “the ideal is the answer”.
Because of this self-righteous attitude many idealists tends to become upset when it begins to fail and it can affect them in a number of ways:
- It is devastating for them.
- They go through denial
- They act like the world is against them.
- They act like the world is falling apart.
- They have to find some means to defend their ideal, even to the point of criminalizing and villainizing people.
It seems, to me, that we are seeing these very attitudes displayed in this society by the idealists.
I associate the idealism that we are seeing now with the idealism that appeared after WWII as a result of the glorification of the U.S. The victory of WWII, by the U.S., and the technological achievements and economic progress that followed it, made it appear as if “America is the way to be” and that “the American way is the right way”. This became a great matter of pride and still is for some. It created a great idealism of American values and principles as well as its political and legal viewpoints. Many idealists use this as a basis of their ideal. In this way, the idealism that we are seeing really refers to an “ideal American world” where all the American values work. As a result, many idealists think that they are representative of American values and principles.
In addition to that, their emphasis is on the ideal and do not look elsewhere. In this way, idealists tend to have an attitude of “looking at life through a tube”. They tend to be narrow in their conception of things and limited in their views of a “solution”.
Here are some of the qualities we see with idealism:
- A glorification of American values. These include things like equality, democracy and an emphasis on things like individualism and achievement.
- They are rooted in the “glory days of the past”. In general, an ideal is something the past created. As a result, in glorifying the ideal they glorify the past.
- They are not progressive and do not look to the future. The looking to an ideal tends to make them not “forward looking” . . . they are “ideal looking”.
- They tend to be blind, and not cautious, often not looking at the big picture. Because they are “ideal looking” they tend to look at life through a tube and, as a result, they don’t get the big picture. This tends to give them a blind quality and display no caution.
- It has a “voice” in the media. This tends to give idealism a particular power and presence in the society. The media seems to be idealist in orientation . . . they are reporting what wants to be heard. This is often social ideals. As a result, they tend to state, promote, and reflect the ideal.
- It is self-righteous. As I said above, idealist tend to take on a “high and mighty” attitude, as if they are the “answer”.
- It tends to be a point of view popular with females.
- It tends to be a point of view popular with liberals.
Realism is a point of view that emphasizes a confronting the world as-it-is. It does not follow or promote an image of an “ideal world” nor does it try to force things to fit an “ideal image”. As a result, realism tends to be somewhat spontaneous and reactionary. Because of this, realism lacks security and safety. This often creates, in realism, an attitude of caution. In this way, realism tends to look at things more deeply and, in so doing, tends to be more implanted in the situation.
Being spontaneous to conditions realism often can be blunt, violent, and forceful. This scares many people, particularly idealist who want the comfort of an ideal. Often, one does not know what will happen with a realism. But what we do see is that realism is often very creative. Idealism, on the other hand, tends to be uncreative and stagnant as its rooted in a constant ideal.
The great power of realism is that it is based in the world and in confronting it. As a result, it creates a real-world perspective. But, often, the real-world is not pretty, is unpleasant, and can be terrifying. As a result, realism is often hard for many people to handle. In fact, my observation is that most people who cater to realism tend to take a realism point of view but with a “dash” of idealism to soften it.
Realism tends to need a number of things in order to work effectively:
- A plan
- A direction
Without these, realism is as if lost and is ineffective. In these ways, realism needs some organization to deal with the world. In a way, a realism without organization is not a realism at all . . . it is just an idea.
Generally, realism will develop a plan and direction and will develop a system to coordinate it. Its not uncommon that the system created by realism can become so powerful and overbearing that it begins to strangle people and society.
Realism tends to have qualities such as these at this time:
- It is a point of view based in confronting the world.
- It can be a harsh, violent, or difficult point of view to handle.
- It is progressive in character.
- It is spontaneous and reactive.
- It tends to take a cautious perspective and point of view.
- It needs organization. It needs leadership, plan, or direction.
- It currently has no “voice”. Realism seems to gain its “voice” in a social structure, tradition, culture, etc. These are all things that have deteriorated since WWII. As a result, realism does not have firm “voice” in society.
- It tends to be popular with males.
- It tends to be popular with conservatives.
THE INFLUENCE OF AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
We are now facing an uncertain future, of a situation in which we do not know what to expect. In short, there is anxiety in the future. This, it seems to me, has a great impact on this dispute and has probably played a large part in its creation. Its influenced each side:
Idealism – As I said above, idealists tend to “wrap themselves up in the ideal” to make them feel secure. In this way, the ideal protects them from the anxiety and uncertainty of the future. This seems to suggest that they are frightened deep down. It also shows how idealists are holding onto the ideal to combat their fear of the future. Overall, idealism tends to emphasize the past without regard to the future
Realism – This point of view is based in the world and, accordingly, will be more accepting of the unknown and uncertain future. The problem is that it doesn’t know how to do it. In this way, realism is better equipped to deal with the future but it has no plan.
THE PROBLEM OF “AMERICAN GLORY”
There is an aspect of this dispute where it seems to revolve around the difficulty in letting go of “American glory” and moving on to a “new world”. In this way, it is reflective of an awareness of a post-American world by many Americans. This is primarily an attitude of the idealists which means that they basically don’t want America to change. Harking back to “American glory”, and its ideals, makes idealists feel safe and secure.
This point of view isn’t all seen with idealists. There are some realists, though, who tend to emphasize “American glory”. Realists primarily tend to emphasize “American glory” as a basis of how to do things and progress. In other words, they use it as a “model” for the future. This, it seems, is primarily because it is something to be “relied upon”. In my opinion, though, it is just a realists version of how the idealists don’t want America change. In both cases, the past is looked upon for the future.
What this shows is that “American glory”, and the success of America in the past, has become something as a hindrance to the future. Both are only wanting to “replicate” America’s success in the past. The future, in my opinion, needs something else.
THE FAILING OF IDEALISM
As I said above, idealism, being based in an image, tends to work only for a short period of time. I tend to think that American idealism is largely failing. One reason for this is that this idealism is rooted in the post WWII world and the conditions of that time. That era has long past. As we move further and further away from that time that form of idealism is increasingly becoming removed from the times. Personally, I think that a lot of American idealism is failing and many people are struggling with this fact. In fact, I’d even go on to say that the “realism versus idealism dispute” is very much based in the idealists not wanting to let go of their idealism and ideals.
THE LACK OF A “VOICE” AND ORGANIZATION IN REALISM
At this time, realism has no “voice” in society nor is it organized. This means that realism is impaired. It almost seems as if realism is waiting for a “voice” and organization to appear so it can manifest itself. I would even go on to say that a large part of the “realism versus idealism dispute” is that realism cannot develop a “voice” or organization to manifest itself.
My conversations with people seem to show that most males, anyways, reflect the perspective of realism. This shows that realism seems to be a growing attitude and point of view. It is appearing without a “voice” and without organization showing, in my opinion, that the times are “calling out” for realism. Its appearing naturally and because of need. This, I think, is very revealing.
I tend to feel that, of these two points of view, idealism is something of a hindrance even to the point of being a threat. I think this for a number of reasons:
- It is alienated from the real world
- Its trying to fit things in a preconceived image
- It is not reacting to the conditions
- Its too high and mighty
- It is not progressive
Realism, though, has some problems:
- It has no leadership
- It has no direction
- It has no plan
- It has no defined philosophy
In other words, we don’t know what to expect from realism at this time. Despite this, realism seems to be the wisest path for the times. Idealism will only keep us in the past and, in a way, keep us from confronting the uncertain future. Considering the situation of today we need a more practical real-world perspective in order to move on. Idealism, with all its high cause and self-righteousness, simply does not offer that.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen