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[- Do opportunistic idealists make good politicians?
By Aileen, Section question corner
Posted on Sun Nov 30th, 2003 at 07:04:51 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
In the midst of reading encouraging accounts of idealistic projects and conversations with friends about how many other women from our group feel the same need to "do something" that we have, a trivial little newspaper arrived in my household. Somewhere in the middle there was a small article about recently elected local politicians and their new responsibilities following local elections a few months ago.


[ --------------------------------------------- ]

After reading about which of these politicians now have influence in which areas, I went rummaging through old files to find what I had written about one of them years ago, describing the breakdown of what had started out as a highly idealistic project to provide "alternative" Internet access. The whole project fell victim to an unpleasant combination of opportunism and incompetence, due mostly to the machinations of this man, who has now successfully gone into politics (having first gone into business with what was supposed to be a non-commercial, not-for-profit, social-critical computer network project).

I don't believe that people are ever purposely malicious, I think there always has to be a different possible interpretation as well. Nevertheless, it seems to me that especially projects that involve ideals need some kind of safety mechanism to protect them from self-destructing under the weight of conflicts, in the middle of a clash of convictions - from being sold out to opportunism as well?

There are so many different benefits that the people involved can derive from an idealistic project. What happens, though, when the benefits that various participants are pursuing turn out to be in conflict with one another or mutually exclusive? When what were thought to be common goals turn out to be quite different and the project can't go in all the different directions at the same time? Or does this call the whole foundation of the idealistic project into question? Is a project ever really idealistic, or is that just a convenient label to stick on less noble-sounding goals?

Why do people really engage in idealistic endeavors?

[ --------------------------------------------- ]

Do opportunistic idealists make good politicians? | 3 comments
[new] should "idealistic" be a dirty word? (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#2)
by joerabie on Sun Nov 30th, 2003 at 11:30:51 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

How many times have I seen idealism treated as being naive, wishful thinking? People reply that the alternative to idealism, cynical opportunism, is much more honest, since it is in harmony with *shitty* human nature and the multiple conflicts we are involved in, as well as the vital need of each individual to corner at least a minimal amount of the limited financial resources in circulation to tend to one's own personal survival.

People hate idealism, because it implies non-compromise (a bad thing, since this is at the root of extremism and exclusion). They also hate it for the many good but constraining things that idealism implies, like solidarity and sharing which are adverse to personal comfort. Also, idealism is unrealistic, which makes it terribly irritating for pragmatists.

As for politicians: politics is a terribly corrosive and conflictual art, so even if one is idealistic in one's politics, one is going to have to defend them in a muddy, thorny, minefield. So one is obliged to resort to "unidealistic" acts that are necessary in the short term, to insure survival.

  • idea-l-ism by GabrielPickard, 12/01/2003 08:18:24 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME (none / 0)
[new] protecting idealand (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by GabrielPickard on Sun Nov 30th, 2003 at 08:05:40 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

Of course, you can't protect a project from failing. But i do believe, that at least some safety-mechanisms can- and often should be aggreed on - and that (at a psychological level) it more often than not just depends on explicitly addressing certain bottom-line motivations, methods (well, ideals too). Now i guess (with as little experience as i've got) idealism is both OK and dangerous, it's OK as long as not all of it has to be aggreed on, just sharing a modus-operandi and (kind of) understanding one another should do. To my mind, afiliation with other groups (like-minded, with similar quality-standards) can help - solidarity is better than lone idealism.

Do opportunistic idealists make good politicians? | 3 comments

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