A fine line between idealism and hypocrisy
Maybe the trickiest part of being an idealist is that you don't realise it when you stop being one. It's quite different from "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". Most idealists never realise it when their time is up and the exit door beckons. They don't want to depart, although they have no business staying anymore.If you are an athlete, you know it when the key muscles give up and the younger competitors cruise past you. If you are a lawyer, you know it when it takes a few seconds longer to dig into your memory bank for some life-or-death information. If you are a carpenter, it's when you hit your thumb for the third time in one day.
For an idealist, the death throes often present the illusion that you are at your peak, ready to step up to the highest gear and go at full speed. Truth is, there is no peak, and that when you feel like going for the kill, in the greatest jeopardy is your own noble ideology.
On the surface, idealism is beautiful. Underneath it lies cruel challenges that are almost impossible to overcome. How can you pursue an ideal that is perfect and worth living for without resorting to imperfection or being consumed by the "need" to destroy or to accept some collateral damage? How can you fight for your "rights" without violating those of others? What if the only way to pursue your noble goal is to deny its very founding principles?
The line between being an idealist and a hypocrite is super-thin. How can love be promoted without provoking a war? How can you establish democracy without trampling on the liberty of people who disagree with you? How can all men be equal when we have nothing but contempt for people who think differently? How can you be consistent aside from persistent? How can you denounce one thing when it doesn't help your "cause" and not praise a similar thing when it does?
Sometimes we don't know if we are being driven by an ideal or are simply hiding behind it. But in both cases, a dangerous line is there to be crossed. It's "dangerous" because the line says, "Beyond this and your ideal is gone", but the message is barely visible. Many people have strolled past it, some without looking back while others look back and forth.
TV Channel 3 has taken a soap opera off the air. What's your take on that? ThaiPBS has removed a national affairs debate. Again, what do you say about it? The US Embassy recently cut short an incident of political "mudslinging" on its Facebook. Was that contempt for freedom of expression or a justified attempt to block inflammatory gibberish? Is Julian Assange a hero or international villain? The list of questions goes on and on.
Living one's life based on idealism is easy to proclaim but difficult to practice. Harder, of course, is to know when an ideal deserts you. Even when you stop turning the other cheek and go for an eye for an eye, it's almost impossible to admit you have given up what differentiates you from the "enemy".
An idealist starts off being a dreamer. Then dreams become values and values become something that needs to be shared, and something that needs to be shared becomes something that is worth dying for. It's at the last stage that one risks losing the ideal. It's when a free-speech crusader feels the urge to dictate who should speak what, where, when and how. It's when free-speechers have their separate forums, each calling the other a propagandist's tool.
Perhaps we should make it easier for ourselves by not calling ourselves democratic, liberal, pragmatic, free speech advocates or whatever. That will first of all eliminate the chances of us becoming fake. None of us knows what hand we are going to be dealt next, after all.
Let's see it or call it as it is. All men were born equal, so let's start with everybody is driven by the same basic instincts. When was the last time we witnessed a real ideological clash anyway? Most wars are over resources like land or minerals, no matter what they paper the causes over with.
A much-publicised and highly controversial TV debate over the past few days shows us how tricky it is to keep idealism alive. It's so ironic to see so-called free-will idealists being so negative about fellow human beings. Isn't an ideal supposed to be based on the belief that everyone has goodness hidden somewhere within?
When contempt overshadows such a belief, it's naturally time for those idealists to pack up and go home. Chances are, they don't realise it and may never do so. As far as idealism is concerned, the devil is invisible in the details.