Are you one of those people that loves the thought of seeing others succeed? Do you like working with others to promote growth? Do you value core principles of a subject more than the bigger picture?
You are probably an idealist, like me.
And I think idealism is actually needed in the political landscape we’re currently in. What is idealism, you ask?
Idealism is the belief that values or ideals are what should, and can, make life and the world better. For example, a socialist believes in equality for everyone, even if the current system does not have it, whereas a liberal values individual freedom, and a conservative believes in an organic society.
Another way to present this is as one’s vision for the world they want to live in. Utopianism can fall into this bracket, since it is the belief of an imagined world or society that is perfect by one’s standards.
But an idealist is also someone who has the occasional brilliant idea, and positive visions for the future. They strive to discover themselves, the world, and so their imagination is driven by a road to self-discovery and self-improvement.
Okay, that’s all well and good, but what does idealism have to do with politics?
Right now in politics, there is a lot of maintaining of the status quo. We are living in a liberal democracy, currently governed by neoliberal politicians driven by money and power. Living in a neoliberal society for ages would eventually become boring, and the desire for something new would soon be warranted.
Many people on the left believe that the current system is not fit for purpose, or has simply outrun its course and that it’s time for something different. This is an idealist way of thinking because they’re imagining a vision of a better society that serves everyone as close to perfectly as possible.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, its impact on society and economics, and the lack of common principles shared within all parties, as an idealist, I feel quite hopeless about my future. Nothing is changing for the better. Rather, everything is changing and politicians find ways of either 1) profiting from it, or 2) ensuring that the biggest harm falls onto those at the bottom.
When Jeremy Corbyn came to lead Labour in 2015, it felt like another world was possible. A different kind of politics, one in which every community would be accounted for.
And I’ve admitted that I’m idealistic most of the time. There are also realists and pragmatists out there, too. These people look at the current reality of the political landscape, and practical ways to survive within it.
That being said, I do think understanding core principles of your beliefs are important and making sure we abide by them. This is because being consistent in your views makes it less likely you’ll flip-flop back and forth between different ideas, and people can work out what your intentions are.
I believe it is not realistic to stray away from what you really believe in, especially when you claim your values beforehand, only to then go back on them. I think that those who put party or government power over common principles is a perfect example of this. Careerism is common because those who value their career over everything else will often stray away from party principles.
At the end of the day, the reality is that the public perception driving elections is what brings a politician a cross on the ballot. So some politicians who are often trapped in a corrupt bubble will ensure they do whatever they can to get elected, even if that means sacrificing principles for power.
But we can also be idealistic about changing the electoral system and ensuring it is a fairer process, which is why people might campaign for proportional representation. And we can be idealistic about how we want to change public opinion.
Politics will continue to bring in new people, and with it, more values and ideals, that eventually lead to new ideas being practically implemented. A great example of this is testing out modern monetary theory in a small country like Scotland. Should Scotland go independent, this would certainly be interesting to see.
We can have hope for better healthcare, better human rights, better education for all. That sort of idealism is good, and probably even needed in difficult times like now.
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