At one point in their life, most people will deal with a disconnection from reality. I personally can attest to this. My disassociation was not caused by hallucinations or blindness, nor by mind altering chemicals. It was simply a byproduct of the unfortunately useless human trait called ‘wishful thinking.’
This trait has many names and variations, such as naivete, pipe dreams and so on. Regardless of what it is named, it is essentially this: the failure of a person to see events or situations as they actually are, and the tendency to instead impose their belief of ‘the way things should be.’
In the past, people who have stripped away this foolish type of thinking have been considered cold, inhuman. And to a certain degree it is. However, while idealism may be the prime factor in motivating change, it will not see an actionable ending without a realistic, measured approach.
Standard idealistic thinking has shaped many facets of our society, and can be viewed in several examples.
Firstly, consider the average office worker. This man (or woman) is employed in the stereotypical urban maze that has grown into the everyday life of many westerners. He spends eight hours of his day inside of a six foot square cubicle, recieving warmth only from the flourescent lights of the building. He is in the ‘dead end job,’ recieving a mediocre paycheck to compensate him for his puerile work. His co-workers are much the same as him, and as such either feel sympathy for sharing the suffering, or resentment for the mirror he holds up to their lifestyle. Nonetheless. this man has an uncompromisingly happy outlook on life, which many will cheerfully describe to be a ‘good attitude.’ His eulogy will speak volumes of his kind nature and unbreakable spirit. But it will not tell the truth about his failed dreams, the impossible goals he always maintained in his heart, but simply never managed to achieve. He was a wishful thinker, carrying himself through life on the hopes that he will never see recognized.
Next, listen to the protester, the left wing, pro-choice, wool cap wearing university student who lives on campus, eats catered meals and moved straight there from their parents basement. Despite having almost no life experience, he has a solid opinion on a wide variety of topics. The wars are unacceptable, he trumpets, waving a cardboard banner in front of his city hall. Make love not war, when the rich make war, its the poor that die; he is a man of cliches and institutionalized eduction that preaches idealism in the sterilized confines of school. He is shocked to hear of civilian casualties, and cannot seem to grasp why these soldiers, with all their heavy weaponry, always seem to kill some innocent people. And isn’t it just too unlikely that an entire culture has evolved around the intent to destroy ours? Once again, he does not see the world for what it is. He sees it for what the institutions have told him it should be, and that rose coloured world is a beautiful, safe place.
A certain philosopher was adept at wading through the preconceptions of human behaviour, and candidly addressed one of the fascinating areas that many people have shied away from. This was the conversation regarding the manipulation and control of the masses – the application of power in political means. His work ‘The Prince’ has achieved a degree of recognition, but not necessarily in favourable terms. Criticism of his work is easily found, despite the fact that he wrote: Yet as I have said before, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid it, but to know how to set about it if compelled.’ While showing a certain moral flexibility, Machievelli demonstrated a remarkably clear view of the world.
Books like ‘The Prince’ show us something that most will vehemently deny, or at least refuse to contemplate in their hearts. While a person can be good, people in groups are prone to seemingly unreasonable acts of violence, selfishness and barbarism. The crowd can be stirred by the strong call of one man, and all too soon it is the wicked who are more likely to raise their voice then the just.
My challenge is that more people begin to view the word from an open perspective, untinged by their own personal desires and past experiences. See things for what they are, not what they should be or could be, and most definitely not what you wish they were. Only then will you begin to see clearly.