Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's wrong with a bit of idealism?

naive: Marked by or showing unaffected simplicity and lack of guile or worldly experience

I've been insulted and called various unflattering things in my life, as one does if you've been around long enough and choose to participate in society. But two terms that have been used in a disparaging way towards me have always been a puzzlement: 'naive' and 'idealistic'. The first because I know I'm not naive, and the second because I don't see idealism as being negative. Actually, these two terms often seem to go together. For example, "You're too naive and idealistic." Or, "How can you be so naive? It'll never work. You're too idealistic." (Other terms that get thrown my way are Pollyanna, goody-two-shoes, soft-headed, do-gooder, etc., etc.)

I'm one of those people who think, on the one hand, that the world is going to hell and that we'll probably nuke ourselves out of existence. But, on the other hand, still care about the environment and insist on recycling.

How do I know I'm not a naive? Let's just say I've seen and dealt with more than the usual middle-class western norm. I've looked after people in rundown housing with no bathroom so they have to use a bucket for a toilet, but were too sick to empty it in the communal BR so it sits smelly and fly-gathering for days; I've had to call police to kick in the apartment door of a junkie mother who was passed out on the floor while her newborn was wailing in the background; I've looked after people suffering terminal illnesses and no one else around to comfort them; I've talked with children who I know have been beaten by their parents, but there's no proof and they won't tell. I've seen horrible things happen to good people all the time. I am not naive to what goes on in the world around me.

So why am I accused of being naive? Well, apparently, because I'm too idealistic. And why am I idealistic?. Because
I've also seen how a simple, kind act or word can make a difference. I realise that shitty things happen in life, but believe we can all do something to make things better for others. We can all do our part in not making things worse and taking action, no matter how small, to do something positive. I'm not necessarily talking about earth-shattering, global-changing action, though it could be. I'm talking about the day to day way we live our lives and choose to act and react to those around us. We can choose to act like a$$holes or not. We can choose to be kind or not. I believe in not passing the buck and looking at our own actions before condemning others. So what if someone else is being a pain in the ass? It doesn't follow that you have to be one in reaction to him.

I believe in the ripple effect. Everytime you interact with someone, you've affected them in some way. They, in turn, will go off and interact with someone else. You can choose to be positive or negative. I don't pretend to be some kind of Mother Theresa and heaven knows I have my bitchy, snarly days. As my profile mentions, I see myself as having a good dose of pessimism. But it doesn't stop me from being idealistic in the sense that I want to make the world better rather than worse.

Well, this is about as messy and disjointed a piece as I've written in awhile. I'm going to consider it what Anne Lamott calls a 'shitty first draft' and leave it at that.

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