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Back to Observations
IDEAS AND IDEALS
1956. Those who are "woke" will soon discover they are not "woke" enough. Impossible standards have no limit to their theoretical requirements of orthodoxy. This phenomenon may be referred to as the inexorable law of unattainable ideals.
1952. The dream of perfection is the curse of mankind. The reality is always less.
1924. In the temple of infinite tolerance, there is no distinction between good and evil -- between devil's curse and angel's prayer.
1923. Evil is most successful when it poses as virtue.
1921. Many bad ideas wear the sheen of virtue.
1908. The currently fashionable signalling of virtue: The past can be re-written, and a new crystal palace can be built. Human beings can be transformed into the apparently perfect but lifeless figures of an egalitarian crystal menagerie.
1899. The great Catch - 22 of the human condition: a casual approach to the achievement of ideal virtues is condemned -- but ideal virtues are unattainable -- and an eager pursuit leads inevitably to oppression and moral failure.
1895. Every impulse toward perfection should be tempered by an awareness of the law of diminishing -- and potentially negative -- returns.
1871. Multiple Cake Syndrome -- the desire to have one's cake and eat it, too -- to pretend that things mutually exclusive are actually compatible -- may be considered a reliable constant in the lexicon of human psychology.
1856. Utopian dreams are invariably constrained by the real limitations of human nature. Human nature is the result of a process primarily competitive -- not egalitarian.
1855. Those who seek to destroy one hierarchy will invariably create another. The form is vulnerable -- not the concept; hierarchy is intrinsic to all existence.
1854. It's a disappointment to egalitarians -- but there are actually three certainties: death, taxes, and hierarchy.
1838. Those who see the world as they think it should be get blindsided by the world as it is.
1837. The line between idealism and stupidity is often imperceptible.
1830. Man yearns for freedom, knowledge, and wisdom. Wisdom is the most elusive -- a recognition of the attainable -- a river of quicksilver running an irregular course between the unsatisfactory and the ideal.
1829. Ideals are tools with very sharp blades -- useful when used precisely, and with care -- dangerous and potentially fatal in the wrong hands -- or in the wrong context.
1827. Socialists would refute King Canute: they believe that success against the tide of history is possible.
1823. There is an unbridgeable gulf between utopia and the here and now: Here -- the man with no legs will never win the footrace -- and no compensation will meet the demands of ideal justice and perfect mercy.
1822. There is an indelible wound in the human condition: In the reality of struggle -- with the fact of intrinsic disparities -- we dream of perfect ease and universal equality. To settle for less suggests a pact with the devil -- but the determined pursuit of unattainable perfection leads -- paradoxically but inevitably -- to oppression and moral failure.
1821. Greta Thunberg is a powerful symbol within our age. She illustrates the evil of those who have fed her a pack of lies to advance a political agenda. She herself reveals the perils of youthful inexperience -- gullibility and a blindness to nuance -- an idealism combined with ignorance -- which permits the odious expression of self-righteous, messianic certainty. In a rational world, no self-respecting adult would listen to her for thirty seconds. That so many respond with uncritical fawning reveals the dangers of our instinctive tribalism -- in which the capacity for independent thought is sacrificed for the comfort -- apparently -- of bleating with the herd. Such abject surrender of common sense -- in an age which pretends to scientific sophistication -- does not augur well for the future of the human project.
1820. The difference between a genuine virtue and a false one may be a matter of degree: most virtues, carried to excess, become oppressive, harmful, and counter-productive. As Alexander Pope observed in the 18th century: the difference is too nice / Where ends the virtue or begins the vice.
1819. The worship of false virtues paves the way for evil. False virtues include the extremes of "diversity," "inclusivity," "multiculturalism," "equality," and "tolerance."
1809. The great moral failure of the age is reflected in the determination to see the world not as it is -- but as it "should" be -- or as it suits a preferred narrative.
1800. Being kind to people with bad ideas -- is just another bad idea.
1798. The most dangerous intellectual malady in the world today is Multiple Cake Syndrome -- the belief that you can have your cake and eat it too -- that irreconcilable opposites are comfortably compatible. You cannot have any of the following: competitions in which everybody wins; honesty and unhurt feelings; truth and political correctness; success measured by degrees of victimhood; absolute mercy and perfect justice; open borders and national sovereignty; multiculturalism and national unity; unlimited diversity and social cohesion; inclusivity and standards of competence; freedom of speech and laws against blasphemy; a secular society which defers to religious superstitions. Finally-- you cannot achieve the most cherished and delectable of confusions -- you cannot recognize the simple fact of the real world -- that some things are better than others -- and yet proclaim that all individuals, groups, cultures, and religions are equal.
1787. The natural world is cruel and competitive; the ideal world merciful and egalitarian. The civilized world is a utilitarian compromise. The key word is "utilitarian:" civilization cannot survive either extreme: the imperative of competition, or the fantasy of equality.
1786. Wisdom and feel-goodery live in different neighbourhoods -- usually galaxies apart.
1785. Perfection is incompatible with change -- and hence with the pulse of life.
1778. We live in a world of sows' ears, and should strive to make serviceable wallets. The silk purse is the song of Sirens -- it promises delight, but delivers destruction.
1777. The bad news is that neither mankind nor society is perfectible. The good news is that improvements are possible. The moral is that we should focus on the useful, rather than strive for the impossible -- which invariably makes things worse.
1776. The idea that the legitimacy of government derives from religion cannot be reconciled with the notion that it depends upon the will of the people. The idealists -- those who believe it can -- would be willing purchasers of a unicorn ranch on the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
1775. Illusions, while necessary -- like other drugs -- need rigorous testing for safety and efficacy.
1765. Every dream of Utopia is subverted by the nightmare fact: some things are better than others. Inequality is the bite of every paradisal apple -- it ensures that community will be diluted by competitive struggle, and that contentment will be marred by the cruel but inevitable distinction between failure and success.
1755. Human beings yearn for moral perfection -- you can call it "social justice," if you like. But reality insists on compromise -- the equivalent of moral failure. This explains why frustration and disappointment are ineradicable threads in the fabric of human existence.
1725. Failure is baked into every cake destined for the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
1713. The abbreviated spelling of "idealist" is "idiot."
1712. Practical people seek to manage hatred; fools try to banish it. Idealists believe it can be replaced with love.
1707. Utopias are imaginary places defined by happy co-operation and untroubled consensus; real human beings tend to be competitive and fractious. The clay foot of every Utopian project is coercion.
1706. The man with no legs will not win the footrace. Jungle justice declares his failure to be final and complete; compassionate justice, obsessed with equality of outcome, says his reward should be no less than that of the most proficient runner. Civilized justice must find a middle ground between cruelty and stupidity.
1700. Wisdom lies in the acceptance of the perfectly correct amount of imperfection.
1699. "Virtue" is as "virtue" does. Fine sentiments and noble intentions may be pleasing to the ear -- but real virtue is determined by practical results. What works is better than what sounds good.
1693. Do not seek perfection -- but reasonable compromise. Be uncompromising only in defence of what is reasonable.
1692. There is a natural tendency to seek tidy solutions to the difficulties of the human condition; the first step is to realize that there are no tidy solutions. Simple answers and ideal schemes are examples of the difficulties.
1689. Ideal schemes for human society always oversimplify -- they assume that men are mere piano keys -- rather than beings complex, varied, and uniquely different.
1684. Space and time are necessary conditions for experience -- but entangled particles, and electrons of no fixed address, question their nature. "Experience" suggests consciousness -- something for which no one seems to have a convincing explanation. Is it like life itself, a potential of matter which arises from a particular organization -- and hence an implicit aspect of reality? We long for a world of plain facts, but must deal with a universe of puzzling uncertainties.
1679. Islam is both a religion and a political ideology. The West has a reflexive response to religion: religious freedom is sacrosanct -- thus there is no possibility of any overt rejection of a subversive and incompatible political ideology. Idealists always suffer -- their failure to face reality allows it to stab them in the back.
1674. Anarchism is a philosophy well suited to island jurisdictions where the human population is no greater than one.
1666. The great challenge of the modern age is to square the circle: to admit that some ideas are better than others, while pretending that all ideas -- and the people holding them -- are absolutely equal.
1654. The universe is ninety percent utilitarian, and ten percent inspiration and imagination. Both elements are crucial -- but ignoring the proportions is the road to ruin.
1650. It is not surprising that liberals favour the lowering of the voting age: they know the young are idealistic and vulnerable to their stock-in-trade of attractive illusions.
1646. Much evil is done in the name of virtue.
1644. Self-perceived virtue can be dangerous; the tendency is to forget that every virtue, carried far enough, becomes a vice.
1642. Dream big -- but not stupid. (A re-statement of # 1641.)
1641. Dreams and desires are the inspirations to progress and fulfilment; suffering occurs when the inspiration is in disproportion to the perspiration needed and available.
1632. Reality -- the truth -- is sprawling, stubborn, contradictory, mysterious, and inconvenient. It cannot be tidily stuffed into the little boxes of religious dogma -- nor can it be agreeably housed in the brittle crystal palace of egalitarian socialist ideals.
1629. Mr. Trudeau suffers from the "Angelical Fallacy" – he believes himself to be irrevocably on the side of the angels. The delusion can be fatal: victims believe that their virtuous ends – so undeniable and obvious – will justify all means – no matter how foolish or ignoble. Thus, they make irretrievable pacts with the devil.
1624. Altruism -- despite its claim -- is still, ultimately, the handmaiden of competitive societal advantage; the society which believes that competition -- with its callous distinction between failure and success -- can be replaced with egalitarian loving kindness -- will not survive. It will be superseded by those with a better understanding of reality.
1622. Socialism and political correctness are both based on ideal, egalitarian visions of reality; they are both oppressive in the real world.
1621. Every ideal has an inner jackboot.
1620. To get anywhere, an ideal concept requires some size of jackboot.
1619. Inside every committed idealist is an authoritarian, screaming to get out.
1618. Within every ideal there lurks a totalitarian heart.
1617. Ideal worlds are both unattainable and unforgiving; the attempts to construct them are invariably oppressive.
1616. Ideals are absolutes -- and hence unforgiving. The real world -- a see-saw of necessary opposites -- requires compromise.
1605. Seduced by the ideal, we neglect the real.
1602. At the heart of the human condition there is an unbridgeable divide between the ideal of social co-operation and the practical necessity of individual competition -- the conflict inherent in change and improvement. Moral inadequacy is assured. Too determined a pursuit of ideal social virtues such as "equality," "tolerance," or "harmony" -- and oppression is the result -- since "equality" is unattainable, "tolerance" cannot be extended to evil, and "harmony" is both vulnerable to change and inconsistent with hierarchy. But a failure to pursue such virtues carries the taint of moral turpitude. It is the existential problem of assured damnation: damned if you do -- and damned if you don't.
1600. Those who seek a world of love and peace should remember that neither concept can exist in the absence of hate and war.
1599. Virtue owes less to name than circumstance. There is the secrecy of the conspirator -- but also that of the ballot box -- the mask of the thief -- and that of the truth-teller. Similarly, tolerance and diversity encompass the admirable, the condemnable, and the merely stupid.
1594. Socialism is the crystal palace which nobody knows how to build. Much of the difficulty lies in the fashioning of the required crystal people.
1591. Good intentions should always be subjected to to the Stupidity Test: Will the practical result be seen as undeniably noble or monumentally moronic?
1590. The Angelical Fallacy is common to all idealists, including socialists, supporters of affirmative action, multiculturalists, and climate activists.
1590. The Angelical Fallacy is common to all idealists, including socialists, supporters of affirmative action, multiculturalists, and climate activists.
1589. The Angelical Fallacy: The erroneous belief that good intentions justify bad practices and hellish outcomes.
1586. The determined attempt to make silk purses out of sows' ears can leave you with dead ears and deaf pigs.
1585. Life can be deceptive: What is obviously noble and virtuous in theory can turn out to be disconcertingly stupid in practice.
1581. Religion has traditionally dealt with the dichotomy between what is real and what is imagined by placing the ideal world at a convenient distance -- after death. Socialism -- and the new secular religion of political correctness -- attempt to transform the real world by imposing ideal, egalitarian principles. Both are doomed by the bedrock reality: the essence of life is the struggle for unequal outcomes.
1580. Imagination is essential to improvement -- just as mutations are essential to evolution. But both imagination and mutations must -- ultimately -- defer to the utilitarian dictates of the environment.
1579. What sounds good and what works inhabit different universes.
1578. The ideal and the real are inextricably intertwined threads -- they form the Gordian knot of human existence.
1577. In the ideal world, the lion lies down with the lamb, and they discuss how the brotherhood of creatures may best be expressed and enhanced. In the real world, the lion cannot philosophize before dinner. At the heart of the human predicament is the need to make a reconciliation -- always imperfect -- between the the two worlds.
1572. The border wall is a defining symbol of our age. It is seen by realists as a cruel necessity -- by idealists as unnecessarily cruel.
1569. The amount of hypocrisy in any endeavour may be seen as directly proportional to the distance between the proclaimed ideal and the underlying reality.
1566. "Multiculturalism" -- "open borders" -- "strength from diversity" -- all these notions suggest that immigration need not be controlled, and cannot possibly represent a threat. Yet Motion M-103 shows the willingness of government to sell our birthright of freedom of speech for an unsavoury mess of religious pottage -- long rejected in our own culture but expected where Islam dominates -- the absurd claim that religion must not be criticized. The price of liberty, it has been said, is eternal vigilance. It is unwise to nod, agreeably, to the bromide lullabies of gullible idealists.
1559. Utopia -- whether secular or religious -- is not attainable. That is because at the heart of every society there is a need for co-operation and a need for competition. It is a conflict of necessary opposites which ensures things will always be a muddle. The proper goal of mankind is pragmatic idealism -- the best muddle possible. (But the idealists will remain dissatisfied.)
1549. It's a long bridge between dream and reality.
1539. As a species, we seem fated to pursue ideal perfection -- in a world where the only constant is change -- and what works is always a compromise.
1530. Modest improvements to the workable are better than radical transformations towards the ideal.
1528. Some are so intent on creating paradise they ignore the hell they are constructing in order to achieve it.
1520. The essential angst of human existence arises from the unyielding disparity between ideal conceptions and harsh necessities.
1517. Pure justice is always cruel; pure mercy, always stupid. Every compromise between them is less than satisfactory.
1516. On the world-wide sea, there are many sinking vessels, and a number of fortunate lifeboats. Virtue requires that the lifeboats rescue desperate swimmer-survivors -- but an overburdened lifeboat becomes a deathtrap. Rescue, then, is not a matter of principle -- but a matter of numbers; the cruelty of rejection is not an option, but a necessity.
1512. Freedom requires a framework; diversity must meet the test of viability; creativity is defined by custom. Life itself evolves through the interplay of random, chaotic forces tested against the inflexible limitation of survival. The principle of complementary opposites explains why life is not as simple as may appear on the surface -- why real virtue is never an ideal -- but a compromise.
1511. Cynicism is the armour of the wounded idealist.
1506. Evil can be both deliberate -- and -- the unintended consequence of idealism. The most dangerous idealism involves the certain belief in an authoritarian and inflexible God; after that comes the belief that "equality" is both desirable and attainable.
1500. In the battle between pleasant lies, and unpleasant facts -- the lies usually win.
1494. Protect us from the idealists -- for their good intentions and gullibility will lead us to the inferno.
1488. There is no such thing as perfection -- only the warring of complementary opposites.
1465. The human condition assures moral failure: too earnest a pursuit of perfection -- which is ultimately unattainable -- involves a degree of heartlessness -- the zeal of puritanical oppression; a lax or less committed approach suggests complacency in the face of evil -- the lack of a moral compass.
1463. The human condition will always be difficult -- because attractive ideals will always be at war with practical necessities.
1457. Beware perfection's dream forlorn;
There grows no rose without its thorn.
1454. Sometimes it is necessary to choose between ideals and survival.
1423. Life comes with a guarantee of muddle and uncertainty: there is no chart for safe passage between the lure of the ideal and the demands of the real.
1392. A rose garden is never enough; the stems must be thornless, the blooms perpetual.
1354. The cage containing freedom is best constructed of facts; paradoxically -- high-sounding, expansive ideals make very small cages.
1353. The preference for fantasy over fact is a modern folly. Equality of result is neither desirable nor attainable; adversity is woven into the fabric of existence, and hurt feelings are unavoidable; the pursuit of all ideals -- especially those claiming religious sanction -- should be governed by a consideration of likely practical consequences rather than by a blind belief in the validity of hopeful intentions.
1349. Determining the limitations of freedom -- while necessary -- is fraught with difficulty. The modern tendency is to restrict the freedom of those who oppose popular fantasies, and encourage an all-inclusive, self-congratulatory tolerance of unsuccessful -- and ultimately destructive -- ideas.
1348. The awkward paradox of freedom is that it cannot flower (or even be understood) in the absence of boundaries. Freeing thieves and murderers will enhance their liberty, but not that of society as a whole. Like every virtue, freedom contains the seeds of vice. Like every ideal, it must be considered not as theory -- but in terms of its practical effects.
1342. Any practical, real world expression of virtue will be found to be incomplete -- flawed and imperfect. The attempt to achieve "perfect" virtue requires exactly that oppressive zeal which is synonymous with vice.
1341. Perfection is incompatible with change; there is a certain prudent practicality -- or unacknowledged irony -- in the religious notion that you have to be dead to experience it.
1335. The pursuit of ideal perfection in human affairs is based on the flawed premise that the quick can be transformed into the dead -- without the unfortunate consequence of mortality.
1334. The great stumbling block in the pursuit of ideal notions is the fact that living creatures are not perfectible. Perfection is static -- but life is never still. When life is stilled, it has another name.
1333. An enduring truth -- stoutly resisted because of its paradoxical nature -- is this: the mindless, determined pursuit of a "virtuous" ideal invariably leads to vice.
1330. The human condition might be significantly improved if foolish ideals were abandoned in favour of attainable goals. Some reduction of inequality may be both beneficial and attainable; equality itself is a fantasy, and the attempt to create it is invariably destructive.
1324. 'Virtuous' leaping captures the imagination; prudent looking is tiresomely dull.
1323. It is one of the great follies of mankind to be seduced by ideal notions, and to give no thought to how they might, in practical terms, be put into effect.
1310. Ideals -- ideas of perfection -- are inherently unforgiving and coercive: they contain the seeds of oppression. Dangerously -- they sound good -- their veneer of virtue seduces the ignorant, the unwary, and the well-intentioned.
1281. The world is full of circles, and people who, affronted, are determined to square them.
1255. Every ideal is blind to reality. The abyss of truth is remarkably patient.
1241. Traditionally, men have required myths to live by -- as refutations of an apparently uncaring universe, and as an assurance of immortality. The great modern danger is that they are divisive elements not subject to rational discussion, and are -- as in the past -- convenient tools for oppression.
1227. We are moving from an era of religious idealism to one of secular idealism; the central secular ideal -- which underlies socialism, multiculturalism, and political correctness -- is that of "equality." Beyond, a corrective era awaits -- one in which it is recognized that ideals must be tempered by reality.
1216. Ideals represent virtuous perfection; democracy is messy and unpredictable. The left will always favour ideals over democracy.
1201. Socialism, multiculturalism, and political correctness are all informed by the principle of equality. Since "equality" is an unattainable ideal state, coercion and oppression are intrinsic to all three.
1200. What evils are wrought in the name of "equality!" It is the Procrustean bed into which the great unequal masses of mankind must be forced in order to proclaim that "virtue" has been achieved.
1196. The United Nations is a whited sepulchre -- a veneer of noble intentions covering a festering corruption beneath.
1189. In the ideal world, water also flows uphill.
1163. The attainable is always at some distance from perfection.
1162. The concept of necessary complementary opposites is the key to understanding the difficulties of the human condition. The attainable always lies at some variable distance between the desired and the reviled.
1154. Socialism promises the ideal of equality; it fails to note two pertinent truths: equality is not actually attainable in the real world -- and the attempt to achieve the impossible is invariably oppressive and coercive.
1153. When the rallying cry is "equality," it takes a very brave man to resist. There is little to be gained from denying cherished illusions.
1152. Socialism proves -- through its repeated failures -- that equality is not in the blueprint of nature. That socialist schemes are still pursued illustrates the continuing unpopularity of reality.
1151. Churchill described the virtues of socialism and capitalism as – respectively – the equal sharing of misery and the unequal sharing of blessings. What the Canadian health care system shows is even less flattering to socialism: despite the pretence, even the sharing of misery is unequal.
1150. Socialism teaches a valuable -- although very expensive -- lesson: societies cannot function on the principle of equality. Unfortunately, idealists are very slow learners.
1149. Socialism: the aim -- nobility; the result -- stupidity.
1148. Socialist schemes will always fail because they attempt to suspend the laws of economics, and to defy the realities of human nature.
1146. The road of the ideal never reaches the imagined heights; after a few blocks of well-defined enthusiasm, the track becomes muddied, reality floods over, and the path disappears in the treacherous quicksands of gullibility.
1145. The great political divide has its roots in psychology: Those on the left are idealistic and gullible; those on the right realistic and apprehensive. One side focuses on hopeful intentions, the other on unsatisfactory results.
1135. The notion of complementary opposites is the key to understanding the limitations of the real world. It is not a question of choosing, irrevocably, peace, freedom, love, tolerance, and equality. All of these ideal conceptions imply their necessary opposites. Conflict, restriction, hatred, and inequality cannot be wished away with pious incantations, however heartfelt, or with determined imaginings, no matter how fervent.
1134. Paradoxically, choosing "ideals" -- such as peace, tolerance, and equality may be counter-productive. Every virtue, carried far enough, transforms into vice.
1133. The great intellectual failure of the left is to assume that ideal conceptions represent viable alternatives in real life. It is easy to proclaim virtue by being on the side of peace, tolerance, and equality. But peace may entail self-destruction, tolerance of evil allows it to spread, and equality -- if it were actually attainable -- implies mediocrity, stasis, and the cessation of progress. Choosing -- in the real world -- usually involves determining the lesser evil.
1132. Political correctness attempts to realize -- on earth -- a heaven of equality, with saintly concomitants of benign tolerance and universal respect. The problem is that equality is not in the blueprint of natural things, and what political correctness exposes -- unintentionally -- is the gargantuan gap between the ideal and the real.
1124. Immigration: compassionate ideals are attractive -- but practical realities -- despite their cosmetic deficiencies -- often interfere.
1121. If he did not have to eat, the tiger might well lie down with the lamb.
1120. Political correctness aims for a world of equality where feelings are triumphantly unhurt; the attempt is oppressive, and ultimately must founder on the implacable truth: feelings can never be sacrosanct, and equality is not in the blueprint of natural things.
1119. Ideals are conceptual and theoretical -- they are notions of perfection; human beings are real and -- resistantly -- imperfect. That is why the attempt to implement ideals invariably involves coercion and a loss of liberty.
1118. Socialism illustrates the tyranny of the ideal: it invariably leads to dictatorship.
1117. The tyranny of the ideal becomes possible when noble intentions are considered more important than actual results.
1098. Egalitarian ideals will forever founder on the unmovable rock of hierarchic reality: some ideas are invariably better than others.
1097. The conflict between the ideal and the real worlds cannot be resolved: one is too fanciful for implementation, the other too depressing for contemplation.
1087. Thoughtless human beings have it so easy! (An irreverent addendum to #1086)
1086. To determine what is true, and what is false, to judge what improvements are achievable, and what dreams are idle or even dangerous -- these are the difficult tasks which challenge all thoughtful human beings.
1085. Mr. Dawkins has noted the "epidemic" of restrictions on open speech. The pathogen responsible is the notion of equality; the disease is called political correctness. In the ideal world, people, cultures, and religions -- even ideas except those which deny the very premise of equality -- are equal. Thus criticism becomes "unfair" and -- the ultimate in tragedy -- hurtful of feelings. The ideal world is, necessarily, a restrictive and coercive factor in the real one.
1062. It is fashionable to proclaim -- especially in the interests of compassion and tolerance -- that unequal things are equal. In this manner, stupidity is enhanced, while the reality remains unchanged.
1056. The most promising dreams are those long-cooked over a slow fire -- and well seasoned with reality.
1051. The collision between idealistic dreams and stark realities is seldom pretty. (The dreams are always found liable; reality is awarded for insult, injury, and costs.)
1049. When paradise is assumed a birthright, the earth can harbour only the aggrieved.
1028. When ideas -- whether religious or secular -- are considered too "blasphemous" to be expressed -- we know that somebody's illusion is being threatened.
1020. Socialism seeks harmonious perfection through central planning -- the successful completing of ideal round holes using the square pegs of reality. Thus it is necessarily oppressive; it is invariably revealed as a dictatorship.
1018. Socialism requires central planning -- it assumes that men are piano keys to be manipulated in the achievement of an ideal harmony. But men prefer to be composers and pianists -- not piano keys.
1015. Capitalism works because it recognizes and gives scope to the competitive instinct. Socialism doesn't work because it pretends that people want to be equal. It's the distinction -- once again -- between what works and what sounds good.
1000. All our philosophies have their roots in temperament and emotion.
998. Good ideas are unpretentious, fearless and confident; bad ideas, pretending to virtue and authority -- fear the truth, and thus claim immunity from the scrutiny of free debate.
996. The attractive theory is equality; the plain reality is hierarchy.
966. Any ideal conception -- to the extent to which it is not consonant with reality -- is potentially oppressive. Thus, the utopias of religion and socialism -- the ideals of equality and infinite tolerance -- are all inherently tyrannical.
965. To escape the tyranny of reality, we flee to the ideal -- only to discover that even velvet gloves hide similar fists.
955. Those who would chase a dream should always examine the intervening terrain. Often a dream shines brightly, distracting attention from the fact that it lies on the far side of an unbridgeable gulf of nightmare.
947. The "preferred narrative" of those on the left is the world not as it is, but as it "ought" to be. Thus fascism is the obvious and necessary response to any threatening reminders of a reality that has already been rejected.
915. When confronted with the choice between an attractive dream and a workable reality, people often choose the dream. The admirers of the Canadian health care system are an excellent example.
895. Men constantly aspire to build palaces of crystal -- never fully comprehending that only crystal people can live in them.
880. An ideal shimmers like sunlight on a distant, glorious peak. But any pinnacle of perfection is elusive -- it is a conjuring, a seductive shaping of mirage. The wise man knows when to stop climbing the mountain -- when the air is too austere -- too rarefied to support his only human breath.
853. Those who proclaim the equality of cultures, and cherish the notion that everyone is as good as everyone else, still expect to be recognized and admired for their superior tolerance and extraordinary compassion.
848. Primitive religions and traditional cultural beliefs do not yield easily to fine and enlightened sentiments; it is the great folly of fine and enlightened sentiments to believe that they do.
836. If only it were possible to determine the point at which an exaggeratedly optimistic view of reality -- a benign and encouraging hopefulness -- is tragically transformed into dangerous delusion!
830. We are tempted to advocate for practical idealism -- but suspect that the concept may be an oxymoronic impossibility.
829. Ideals are necessary -- but can become dangerous traps of absolutism.
802. Idealists seem to believe that tribalism is superficial – something which – if ignored -- will simply go away. But the fact is that tribalism has been an integral part of our evolutionary success. That it is instinctive and deep-rooted is shown in every aspect of society: in religion, in politics -- and in rooting for the home team.
793. Perfectionitis: a psychiatric affliction of modern western democracies. Measuring their societies against a standard of impossible perfection, they become filled with self-loathing, and eagerly embrace policies which seem likely to assure their own destruction.
792. People love to hear that unicorns gambol on the slopes of the Big Rock Candy Mountain, where the handouts grow on bushes, and the lemonade -- like the lunch -- is always free. Thus are they seduced into stupidity.
775. Every ideal conception should have a 'Plan B.'
774. No scheme of government benevolence should overlook the fact that some portion of humanity is crooked.
770. What does work is often disdained -- because it fails to support the idea of what should work.
769. Certainty -- when it is linked to grand conceptual schemes of human improvement and social virtue -- should be viewed with deepest suspicion.
743. Every totalitarian – whether dictator, socialist, climate alarmist, religious leader, or upholder of political correctness – is an idealist: he attempts to make humanity fit – through force or persuasion -- the Procrustean bed of an ideal, conceptual world. The concept is always at odds with the facts or with the realities of the human condition, and is ultimately unattainable or unsustainable.
741. "Equality," "tolerance," "faith," ‘science" and "racism" are some of the most dangerous words in the English language – because they all encompass unjustified assumptions.
"Equality" is assumed to be the natural state of things, or a state towards which things should be -- virtuously -- manoeuvered. But while equality of opportunity and treatment are worthy aims, it is inequality -- not equality -- which is at the heart of all change, all life, and all progress. "Equality" is not attainable, except -- perhaps – in stasis, finality, and death.
"Tolerance" and "faith" are assumed to be universally benign; but focus and direction are the determinants: tolerance of murder, or faith in a God who approves of human sacrifice, slavery, or cannibalism can hardly be considered virtuous.
"Science" suggests the authority of facts, and a reliability of prediction; but too often the term is applied to matters of mere hypothesis, to conclusions preliminary or premature, or to pronouncements made by those with expertise in a field labelled "scientific." Only a record of consistent predictive success gives evidence of a scientific understanding of how the world works.
"Racism" is used as a term of irrefutable opprobrium; it is often applied – not legitimately – to an irrational disapproval of race -- but illegitimately -- to simple criticisms of cultural ideas and practices.
735. Idealism -- so often the blind nursemaid to folly.
733. High ideals -- the most convenient cloak for low motives.
725. This is an age which cherishes not only hopeful illusions, but the self-esteem of those most foolishly entranced; thus, in all things, the truth becomes toxic: the destruction of fantasy is seen as a wanton, gratuitous cruelty.
723. Truth disdains alike the sanctity of religion, the myth of equality, and the ideal of cultural fraternity. Thus it is inimical to peace, order, and security -- the raison d'être of all government.
719. Whenever anyone sets out to prove that equality and brotherhood are the central truths of the human condition, they are challenged by merit, and are overcome by competition.
715. There are few things more dangerous than a bad idea pretending to be a good idea -- and claiming special status and protection on that account.
713. It is important to be able to say nasty things about bad ideas; freedom and good ideas are the worthy beneficiaries.
711. Life is a triumph of utility, but a failure of perfection.
710. Aim high -- but recognize that life itself is a failure of perfection. (Cf. #349 Nature does not aim for perfection, but rather, a high degree of utility. This fact should temper much idealistic enthusiasm.)
709. It's better to be perfectly useful than uselessly perfect.
708. We are the temporary achievement of relentless change and ceaseless striving; yet, like the flower that disdains the supportive soil and forgets its roots, we yearn for unwitherable bloom, and a quiet, unhurried garden of equality.
692. Just as the old, looking back, idealize the past, so the young, looking forward, idealize the future. Illusion is the stuff of memory -- and is at the heart of hope.
676. Illusions are necessary, but dangerous. Commitment is best hedged with caution.
660. Careful dreams begin the necessary voyage to improvement. Careless dreams disdain reality -- they end in wreckage -- a harsh testament to the perils of idealistic gullibility.
651. Gazing at the stars will not save you from the abyss at your feet.
649. The spiritual home of Left-Wingery is -- of course -- none other than the Big Rock Candy Mountain -- where the sun always shines, the handouts grow on bushes, and the bluebird, full of free lemonade, exults in perpetual song.
641. Mankind aspires to a perfection not permitted by his genetic legacy --nor by the competitive necessities of his circumstance. He is condemned to endless aspiration -- a persistent purgatory of failed ideals.
632. Some western ideals -- the belief in cultural equality and an uncritical view of tolerance as an unqualified good -- lead to a self-destructive appeasement of those who are neither egalitarian nor tolerant. Complete destruction may not ensue, but the disruption of society occasioned should result in a better appreciation of reality.
602. Ideals are absolutes — they are like round holes of perfection into which the square, rough_hewn pegs of reality can never be successfully fitted.
586. It's a cruel world: idealistic dreams usually end up costing as much as regular stupidity.
585. Naiveté does not come cheap.
576. Those who breathlessly praise 'cultural diversity' as an end in itself seem to forget that, in the natural world, diversity provides not only good ideas which triumph, but bad ideas which, deservedly, fail.
565. The ideal is that all human beings are equal, and should not be judged on the basis of their culturally derived ideas and attitudes. The fact is that cultural gulfs can be wide, deep, and dangerous. Pretending that there is no abyss will not repeal the law of gravity.
557. Even those philosophically committed to equality and the brotherhood of man tend to root for the home team.
555. Pie-itis: Disease affecting cognition and perception. Characterized by specific hallucinations concerning edible desserts (they are usually round, and crusted) navigating in the earth’s atmosphere.
547. In every social bestiary, the mongoose of ideal conceptions battles with the cobra of practical necessities.
528. Romanticism values the intangible over the tangible.
523. Small achievable dreams are worth considering; it's the grand, universal -- but unachievable -- conceptions that guarantee misery.
504. The source of an idea does not determine its legitimacy.
492. Ideals are often like the Sirens of mythology – a seductively attractive lure to shipwreck.
488. Idealism is absolutism. The pristine version is toxic, and often fatal; to be beneficial, it requires the dilution of balance, and the filter of common sense.
487. Idealism is a rejection of reality. The difficulty is that reality is sometimes subject to alteration, sometimes not. The most productive idealism is tentative and hopeful; the most dangerous is that infused with absolute certainty.
470. The certainty of the righteous idealist is indeed dangerous. Once you have convinced yourself that you are saving the planet, advancing multiculturalism, or ensuring gender equality in the ranks of bicycle mechanics, the pillaging of evidence, the looting of common sense, and the burning of freedoms become mere necessary means blessedly sanctified by noble ends.
469. Certainty based on evidence is a weak and sickly thing compared to the robust assurance arising from unsubstantiated beliefs and impractical ideals.
448. There are contradictions at the heart of human existence which ensure a restless dis-ease: sentient creatures can thrive only in the unreasonable expectation of their own permanence; uplifting, co-operative, egalitarian dreams are restrictively contained in a prevailing landscape of hostile competition. In short, religious and social ideals inevitably conflict with reality.
442 Ideals are theoretical; power is practical. The mixture of the two requires the same caution required when a gasoline can is opened in a match factory.
429. No man is more dangerous than the idealist with power, for he will always seek to oppress or betray the people. The strong idealist sees citizens as square pegs who must be forced, ruthlessly, into the round holes of an imagined perfect behaviour. The weak idealist sees citizens as requiring no special care or protection: their power and advantages may be ceded, easily, to others -- because he believes in the essential goodness of mankind, and the kindness of strangers. Mao Tse-tung was a strong idealist; Mr. Obama is a weak one.
425. Most men are part realist, part idealist. The ideals are usually chosen; realistic notions are generally compelled by circumstance.
408. Failures of idealism: religion, socialism, multiculturalism, the United Nations, the compulsory universal healthcare system, concerted attempts to protect ideas or people from criticism, the committed belief that equality is a "natural" state – especially the notion that equality of result is either attainable or desirable.
397. The "ideal" ideal is that which gives up something of its essence, and makes a compromise with reality.
396. Idealism is absolutism. That is why idealistic schemes for improvement, allowed their full scope, become coercive and oppressive.
68. Not all ideas are equal. In the real world, fact takes you farther than fancy.
362. The flower of absurd belief is usually rooted in the soil of fear, and fear is its chief means of propagation.
355. The steed of idealism should never be given free "reign"
-- it invariably heads directly towards the abyss.
354. Some ideas are better than others. This simple truth strikes at the heart of many popular beliefs; multiculturalism and religion come quickly to mind.
349. Nature does not aim for perfection, but rather, a high degree of utility. This fact should temper much idealistic enthusiasm.
348. Idealists have a penchant for prescribing cures worse than the disease.
346. Some ideas are better than others. The refusal to face this simple fact lies at the heart of multiculturalism.
344. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... (The American Declaration of Independence) This, of course, is mere pious piffle, the empty puffery of platitudinous pretense. We must conclude that declarations of independence are meant to have the flavour of ceremonial occasions – in which the pomp of oratory is expected to vie with the facade of circumstance.
342. Idealism is the problem: a little bit may lead to improvement; too much invariably leads to a Procrustean bed of cruelty and oppression, or the opposite, a refusal to confront evil. Sometimes it leads to both at the same time. Oh, for a reliable -- and universal -- recipe!
336. The longevity of an absurd belief is a measure of the
reverence in which it is held.
335. Perversity may be condemned as folly, or admired as loyalty.
334. The paradox of perversity is that it is as often admired as condemned.
332. The persistence of unfounded beliefs shows the
inadequacy of facts in contention with reverence.
323. It may be pleasant to imagine every shoot in the garden a potential orchid; however, it does little to prepare for the threat of thistle, or the plague of poison ivy.
314. An idealistic view is often as dangerous as it is attractive.
308. Where harmony is the greatest good, the notes of truth and justice are often deemed discordant -- harsh voices inadmissible in the reverential choir.
302. There can be no honesty in politics: the realist must lie to get elected; the idealist, easily elected for his promises, must cede his beliefs to reality once in office.
300. The tall, impressive column of particular expertise is narrow, and of limited application; wisdom is often found in a broader vessel of general understanding.
298. Beware of politics masquerading as science.
293. To oppose a popular opinion risks isolation and opprobrium. That is why so many bad ideas live into an old age of serenity and reverence.
292. Human Rights Commissions -- with an alchemy perversely unjust -- turn whines into gold.
290. Without dreams, we would remain in a stasis of content.
289. Reasonable dreams may lead to improvement; unreasonable ones to disaster. In the early stages, it is often difficult to make the distinction.
288. The biggest dreams can cause the most damage.
287. Of all dreams, those driven by government are the most dangerous; implementation is undeterred by a sense of personal responsibility, and negative effects are felt by entire communities.
286. All dreams must defer to an underlying paradoxical principle: too much of a good thing is always a bad thing.
281. Man prefers to see himself as the agreeable culmination of a grand plan. That he might be the chance result of persistent rolls of the dice in randomly varying circumstances gives insufficient scope for smugness and self-congratulatory preening.
276. Human Rights Commissions show that the road of Bias can never lead to the city of Justice.
272. Hopefulness should never venture abroad but that it be attended by wariness as a helpful and faithful companion.
271. The construction of the crystal palace always involves some degree of enslavement of the benefiting citizens.
270. Angelic conceptions always founder on devilish details.
269. Man’s great gift is his ability to imagine better worlds; his curse is to be bound by the real one.
267. An aggressive action to remedy a social ill should always wait upon the paramount preliminary consideration: Is the cure worse than the disease?
265. Good is not achieved except through engagement with evil.
263. The socialists’ ideal is a compulsory grand scheme to construct a shimmering palace of crystal for all; that all citizens should have the freedom to construct their own dwellings is as abhorrent to them as the hodge-podge of mud, wood, brick, and glass which must invariably result.
257. Diversity and uniformity represent ends of a spectrum. The most useful light is generated somewhere in the middle.
256. "Diversity" is not an end in itself. At the end, one must conclude that some ideas are better than others.
243. Being on the side of the angels allows for many a pact with the devil. (A re-statement of # 242)
The Alexander Pope Version:
With angels some do take their public
Let noble ends approve their devil’s hands.
242. The nobler the ideal, the greater the evil which can be justified in its pursuit.
232. The United Nations is a wonderful example of the failure which occurs when idealism is unchecked by pragmatism.
199. How oft is the pursuit of an ideal found to end in a quicksand of folly! How oft is the road to stupidity paved with unreasonable kindness!
194. The pursuit of an impossible perfection can provide only a cure worse than the disease; the noble end is seen to justify all those reprehensible means needed to achieve it, but the final result is a degradation, not an improvement in circumstance.
187. If the world of the realist is depressing, that of the idealist is dangerous. Happy is that state where the balloon of hope can lift us from the Slough of Despond, without taking us above those heights where breath must perish.
185. The pursuit of impossible ideals results in the destruction of achievable goods; a coerced harmony leads to the discord of discontent.
179. A modicum of idealism can be a good thing; but too much is enough.
156. Grand schemes of improvement which ignore the primacy of self interest -- will always end badly.
154. Man is happiest when bleating with the herd; the herd is happiest when professing the pursuit of an agreeable ideal, a flattering illusion, or perceived safe haven.
152. In the vehicle of progress, the ideal is the accelerator, the practical is the brake. Finding the judicious application of each in differing terrains is fraught with difficulty: the ride will always be unsettling.
148. It is best that idealism be firmly yoked with impotence, for there are few men more dangerous than the idealist with power. What oppressions have been levied, what destructions have been wrought, what profound evils have been committed by those who would force mankind into the Procrustean bed of an imagined, ideal state!
147. Man’s idealistic reach often exceeds the reasonable capabilities of his grasp; in this disparity lie the seeds of misery.
146. The pursuit of the ideal is a blessing when it results in improvement, a curse when it requires the sacrifice of the reasonable.
122. Imagination is the fuel of man’s aspirations, and his greatest gift; it explores both the world of the possible–as in advances which are achievable because of their consonance with reality–and the world of the unreal as in fiction, superstition, and religion. A great danger arises when one is unable –or unwilling--to distinguish between these two worlds.
103. The whole-hearted pursuit of any ideal requires the sacrifice of common sense.
91. The ideal is the enemy of the possible. (Cf. Voltaire: "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.")
87. It is a conceit of the modern liberal multicultural society that being nice to people with bad ideas and horrifying beliefs will result in harmony. On the contrary, such folly will end in the conflict which inevitably accompanies the unchecked spread of bad ideas and horrifying beliefs.
86. Many wonderful ideals–equality--religion--multiculturalism –are no more than convenient fictions. As such, they constitute a vulnerability at the heart of human affairs; for how are we to agree when to accept them as convenient, and when to deride them as fiction?
77. The war in Afghanistan suffers from the modern weakness of unconsidered idealism. To take a society from the 14th century to the twenty-first probably requires fifty years of occupation and indoctrination. To commit to less than that, to be sensible, would mean to go home after a couple of weeks.
72. It is true--but difficult to accept--that our highest ideals of peace, justice, and tolerance are not reflected in the universe at large. The most difficult task for mankind is to adjudicate the claims of the real and the ideal. The ideal of loving one’s neighbour is significantly impaired if, in fact, he is plotting to kill you.
56. If nothing else, The United Nations has a significant instructive purpose: it shows with what speed and to what extent idealism can be corrupted by reality.
55. An idea does not have to be valid to be respectable; all that is required is a sufficiency of fools.
45. Idealistic notions may temper tribal emotions; but they will never overcome them.
25. There is a constant battle, in society, between realism and idealism. Idealism often wins out, since realism is much less flattering to our self-image; but the outcome is seldom to our advantage.