An Ideal World = or ≠ A Perfect World?

5 Mar

My gears are still turning after a conversation (ok, gchat, oh the digital divide, but a subject enough for another post) with this cat.

Our conversation weaved through a multitude of topics including: white privilege, the “self-made man,” being a product of our environments, ability, opportunities, affirmative action, the idea of a level playing field-and the inability to actually create one.

I am an idealist. I would prefer not to admit defeat. In my ideal world all of the children are fed, housed, and educated, and living in loving families. I had been constantly striving towards this ideal with the belief that I could make progress on it in my lifetime, and that it was achievable in generations to come. But what if the existence of our free society as we know it is dependent upon this very goal never coming to fruition?

Adam: “Because if everyone had the same opportunities how would our society function? Who would choose to serve you McDonald’s if everyone had the chance to go to college? Who is going to say I have a college degree and I’m going to be a janitor?”

“Unless we change our society and live in a commune, which people tried in the 1970s in the hippie era, and failed. Communism tried it too, Marxism failed. Democratic capitalism rules the day, and requires the ‘have-nots’ and the haves.”

That’s a sad realization to come to: that if we make the progress that everyone hopes for (that I hope for), when functioning to the highest degree, we would eventually have to raise people to be have-nots in order for our society to keep working. Which means we would essentially have to choose who deserved to be a have-not. But this ideal world is all based upon the fact that no one has to be a have-not.

Is the solution to this counting on our social service programs failing so that people will slip through the cracks, and we don’t have to force them down into them? Or, modern day example: preaching strict immigration laws and then selectively reinforcing (or not reinforcing) them to fill the positions that the American society does not want.

Adam: “Let’s say that the world was perfect, is that desirable? What would we fight for? What would we believe in?”

“And what is “perfect” is a man made construction, in many ways nature works perfectly, even though things die and suffer and starve, it works perfectly. We add the “moral” component of right and wrong, thus nature might be ideal right now, but not for us.
That’s why the two questions are:
1) is an ideal world possible?
and 2) is an ideal world desirable?”

I said: Well, I think because we’re human it’s impossible, but I guess that makes me wonder if the fight is futile and worthless then, because I don’t think it could actually occur. Ultimately, I wouldn’t want a perfect world.

Adam: “But you might want a better one. And that’s what you fight for, and you realize that it’s the fight that you enjoy, and the fight that is worth it, not the destination.”

“If everything was perfect and you were happy all the time you would be bored out of your fucking mind.”

Yes, I would.

I’m still trying to decide if this is a sad realization I’ve just come to, or an enlightening one, or both. What do y’all think?

Man it’s been a rough week: coming to the realization that I can’t save the world, and not even so much that I can’t, but just that even if I could I wouldn’t want to AND that maybe the best place for all of these efforts isn’t in the nonprofit sector…and I’m majoring in nonprofit management (and community development!), but still, I’ve got some thinking to do.


14 Responses to “An Ideal World = or ≠ A Perfect World?”

  1. Hero of the Light March 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Making me seem like such a downer.

  2. Brownie March 5, 2008 at 6:26 pm #

    I have this internal battle a lot, too, and I ultimately think that there’s no such thing as perfect. Life requires balance, in anything you do, so there will always be the “haves” and the “have-nots” And like Adam said, you fight to make things better, not to make them “perfect” You fight for a world where there is equilibrium, not necessarily equality, and then you fight to maintain it.Even then, you have to lose the equilibrium every now and then to appreciate having it in the first place. Just another fun fact about socialized education: In Tunisia, education is free through PhD. Completely free, they don’t pay anything (they just have to do well enough/care enough through primary and secondary education to get into good colleges). BUT there is a huge unemployment problem in Tunisia. You generally need a degree to get a job, since it’s so accessible, yet a significantly large portion of the (male) population is under 24, so they haven’t necessarily finished their studies if they’re even in school. So free access to education is great, but is it sustainable? Is it really the ideal?

  3. Molly March 5, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    Really Adam you think you sound like a downer? not completely…I think in this line: “But you might want a better one. And that’s what you fight for, and you realize that it’s the fight that you enjoy, and the fight that is worth it, not the destination.”you sound like you’re giving me a (extremely optimistic?) pump up speech.amanda: free education through a phd?! that’s insane!

  4. Molly March 5, 2008 at 7:15 pm #

    p.s. adam: post your “downfalls of idealism” essay, or whatever the title is, and then we can decide if you are in fact a downer or not.

  5. Hero of the Light March 5, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    “The Case Against Idealism”More contentious.

  6. syd March 5, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    everything that adam said in your conversation is almost exactly what was said to me throughout my entire childhood. good and bad, war and peace, hunger and gluttony all need to coexist in order to recognize one from the other. but think about it this way…how much more do you appreciate the good when you’ve experiences its bad counterpart? for example, how incredible does food taste when you’ve been so busy you forgot to eat one day? And how happy and refreshed are you after taking a sip of water after walking up a huge ass hill? obviously these comparisons dont address such pressing issues as the education gap or living in a time of war, but its a microcosm of the overarching concept of appreciating what you do get to experience rather than focusing on whats missing. also, to address the “someone has to serve you at mcdonalds” statement, just because someone is working at mcdonalds doesnt mean they have missed out on opportunities in life. It all depends on how people have prioritized their lives. There are those who grow up in the best neighborhoods in the best school systems who do not graduate from high school because they don’t prioritize education. There are those individuals who do not prioritize making a huge impact in the world but rather focus on making a smaller impact through raising children. If we all didn’t have different priorities we’d all be shooting for the same thing and there would be no progress and life would be boring as fuck. thanks for the procrastination molly 🙂 and sorry if this is all over the place…i have been drawing chairs for 3 hours.

  7. Molly March 6, 2008 at 9:51 pm #

    sorry for making your procrastinate syd!but thanks for making me think about peoples’ priorities…because regardless of whether we’re talking perfect world or ideal world, it will never be the same or agreed upon by everyone, as to what that is.

  8. Hero of the Light March 6, 2008 at 9:57 pm #

    I don’t think any person’s priorities would lead them to accept a job at McDonald’s unless they “have to”.

  9. Hero of the Light March 6, 2008 at 9:59 pm #

    And there are people who prioritize not making an impact at all, whether on one child or the world at large.

  10. syd March 7, 2008 at 3:01 am #

    there are people who prioritize working at mcdonalds and similar blue collar jobs (though they may be rare). i have to find the article but there was this guy who was a successful businessman who gave it all up to become a starbucks barista and is happier than ever before. (dont quote me on the details and give me a bit to find the article)also my mom really wants to give up her law firm CFO job to work the floor at williams and sonoma. im not kidding. i think once my brother and i are out of college shes going to do it. and yes i agree there are people who dont prioritize making an impact at all. i know quite a few of them.

  11. syd March 7, 2008 at 4:55 am #

    found it: was more of a “happy accident” that he ended up at starbucks, but he then CHOSE to stay there because his priorities had all depends on how you look at it.

  12. Hero of the Light March 7, 2008 at 6:35 am #

    Agreed, but most wouldn’t even consider McDonald’s a “blue collar” job vis-a-vis construction, W&S or even a barista. At least those jobs are considered “respectable” and pay a decent amount.What I’m saying is that even if you have different priorities and want to work a “regular” job, you still wouldn’t choose McDonald’s or being a janitor at Wal-Mart. There are certain jobs that literally NO ONE would do unless they had to.Think about it–it’s common for college students to work as baristas or floor salespeople or wait staff. But most still refuse to “stoop themselves” to certain Micky D’s-esque jobs.

  13. el guante March 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    i know i’m late to the party, but one main thought:”society” doesn’t require have-nots; “capitalist society” does. and i’m not making some strict marxist or socialist argument that we need a leninist workers party or whatever; i’m just saying that during the fight for a better world, the world is going to change in ways we might not be able to comprehend now. in a US where everyone is college educated and financially stable, maybe we wouldn’t have mcdonalds anymore. maybe there’d be some new kind of convenient fast food served by robots or something. that’s an out-there example, but the idea is that the system we have now has to function how it does so it can sustain ITSELF. we forge a new system, it will be free to function differently.a more down-to-earth example might be garbage collectors. in a world where we’re more or less free to do exactly what we want to do, who will come get our garbage? well, some people might WANT that job. if not, communities could develop rotating responsibilities lists– you sign up for trash service, you have to do it once a month or something. there are creative ways out of a lot of these problems.because we shouldn’t accept the idea of a permanent underclass. the whole “you need cold to feel warm” idea makes sense rhetorically, but when we talk about real-world struggle, i think it’s fatalistic.

  14. Hero of the Light March 15, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    I believe what you’re describing is a commune structure. I live in a co-op right now, so I’m pretty aware of the benefits/consequences of this type of system.I think you’re right that what we’ve discussed are contingent on a capitalist system. Of course, if we lived in a different way, we wouldn’t require the “have nots” and the perma-garbage mans. Maybe.The problem is that history is against us. Marxism failed, communism failed, the hippie movement of the 1970s failed (in which people sought out the kind of system you describe). Capitalism, it is widely assumed, has been shown to be the “best” and “most efficient” system. And although we’ve taken strides to offset the consequences of it (i.e. the New Deal), our values and ideals are embedded in the system–mostly, that we are individualistic society that believes in free choice. A commune does not offer such choices, except the choice to enter it. What would it take to turn this around? I’m not sure, but I’m pretty cynical, considering that we can’t even get universal health care passed because it inherently falls under the guise of “socialism”. Considering that most citizens (at least in the U.S.) get irrationally pissed at having to pay taxes, despite taking advantage of what their taxes pay for every day. How do we forge a new system when we struggle just to make changes within the current system that reflect what the new system would look like? And would people be willing to give up the benefits of our current system for those of a new system?

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