Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Utopian visions or a little less bad? Idealism versus realism?

In the last few days, Evoke has been making me feel like I'm part of Raphael's School of Athens with Plato and Aristotle arguing in the center over idealism versus realism. Plato points towards the heavens and in that gesture he incorporates his entire view, his belief that a perfect society could be created, that perfect knowledge could be had. Aristotle, his former student, points to the ground and towards a way of knowing and acting in the world that comes from experience. I'm in Aristotle's camp in this regard., but that isn't what matters.

In Evoke, there are idealists and there are realists. There are people who want to work within the system to create change and there are people who want to scrap the wh*** darn thing and start again. There are people who want to create what can be done with current human consciousness and there are people who believe that human consciousness could be radically transformed for everyone's betterment.

I'm not going to ask anyone to change their belief system - to become realists and pragmatists. We need the visionaries. However, I would love see the rhetoric about who is to blame for this or that and that maybe bankers, politicians, lawyers, and throw in your hated group of choice should be "done be away with" (having family who are trying to do good and do right within those professions makes such rhetoric personally offensive to me though I understand where it is coming from) get toned down. History is littered with Utopians who thought that if only everyone shared my vision or creed, everything would be perfect. As a realist, I haven't seen it yet. It doesn't mean it won't, but in the meantime, I and I assume other pragmatists would rather build on and change what is.

I suppose the counter argument is, but Mark, what about social innovation? Aren't we here to change the world? Sure, but behind every prophet of passion, there have been people who implement it, make it facts on the ground, deal with how to make it reality. Otherwise, they are just guys on street corners holding a badly written signs.

So to all my idealist friends, if you doubt the commitment and sincerity of the pragmatist - we are here, engaging the conversation and wanting to change the world (if more incrementally than you). Enough with the anger and lets get down to work.

Views: 64

Comment by Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys on April 7, 2010 at 12:01am
I consider myself an Idrealist a mix between idealism and realism. What is really productive in Evoke is that we are a mix of realist and idealist. When we are too idealistic reality will prove us wrong. When we are too realistic imagination will make us wonder if we could have done more. If I had to choose between idealistic pie in the sky and realistic stubbornness I choose idealism. I rather fail for asking too much, for aiming to high and not by a lack of imagination and asking too little.
Comment by Mark Mulkerin on April 7, 2010 at 12:25am
@Arne - I consider 2 degrees of global warming a little less bad than 4 degrees and the loss of the Amazon, melting of tundra, etc. It is all bad. It is all ugly. But at 2 degrees warming fewer people die, fewer people are forced to migrated, fewer people suffer. Or if I could invent a water purification device that helped half of the people who current don't have access to clean water, that would also be a little less bad. Does that make me square, in touch, or both?

@Patricio - I have three kids - I gotta be realistic for them. Also, I'd rather not fail and I'd rather not make things worse, because I wanted a world that adhered to my ideology. (And nobody has ever accused me of lacking imagination ...)
Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on April 7, 2010 at 12:51am

When I dream too big, I fail. When I dream too little, I fail. Dreaming right in the middle..thats the sweet spot. Where capability meets opportunity and flow happens.
Comment by Mark Mulkerin on April 7, 2010 at 1:06am
@Ursual - Terribly realistic of you. : )
Comment by Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys on April 7, 2010 at 1:18am
Now that´s real
Comment by Kevin Carruthers on April 7, 2010 at 1:23am
I think this is a great post that we should all take into consideration, but we dividing us between realists and idealists is too cut and dry for me. Patricio considers himself an "Idrealist" and I have to agree that it is possible to find a midpoint between the two.

Another thing to consider is sometimes huge dreams DO come true. Maybe not in the fashion we'd want, or maybe not as quickly as we'd hope, but some things can happen that at one point were never thought possible.

If you think in terms of long periods of time, you realize that where there was once a king who ruled everyone, and a slave for each family, democracy was only a fantasy. But over hundreds (thousands in some places) of years that changed. What was a dream too huge to comprehend has become a reality.

I agree that a large percentage of changes in society are small, but these can add up over time to become something completely amazing. And that, I think, is what EVOKE is for.
Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on April 7, 2010 at 1:33am
I personally think its great my banker has had a crisis of conscience... You rock Mark!
Comment by Mark Mulkerin on April 7, 2010 at 1:57am
@Kevin - I guess I'm defining realist in terms that you would probably define as idrealist. I have a vision for a better, more equitable society, but I know that it may take a lot of small changes. For example, democracy - there have certainly been important moments in which democracy has announced itself, but a lot of it has been a slow slog from landed Athenian men to the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights to expansion of the right to vote to whatever happens next. Women got the vote in the US because the million small changes prepared the way for a tipping point. I just ask people who are rallying for the tipping point not to condemn those making small changes for being slaves to the system. Again, I look at history and when change is organic, I see something that seems to come from nowhere blossom, but then I look at the imposed change (of Mao and Robespierre and the Khmer Rouge and all the other "visionaries") and see suffering without long term achievement. Ask yourself, if you could be dictator for twenty years with the ability to raise a generation with your world view and truly change the basis for society, would you do it? Idealism can be oppressive for all the right reasons.
Comment by Shane M. Wheeler on April 7, 2010 at 2:10am
I don't condemn anyone for being slaves to a system. The truth is, if a system needs to get changed, it's usually because it utterly breaks down.

Do I think we might be better with an entirely new economic model? Yes.

Do I want people to suffer through the catastrophic events that would predate putting in said model? Hell no.

So I'd like to think small changes can make enough difference for the mean time, at least enough to make the world better NOW rather than after a catastrophic evolution in the system. Hopefully, these small changes can force the larger changes to happen a step at a time.
Comment by Mark Mulkerin on April 7, 2010 at 2:17am
@Shane - Eyes on the prize, but one foot in front of the other. I'm with you.


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