Thursday, January 18, 2018


Idealism is like food. Both represent powerful and never-ceasing temptations from which we cannot escape. No cold-turkey is possible, because we need both commodities but in moderation and seasoned with wisdom.

However, I think that idealism can be far more deadly. It can deceive us, convincing us that we are serving a higher ideal while we are actually serving ourselves and our hidden need to prove that we are worthy and significant. The late poet T.S. Elliot reflected on the dangers of idealism:

  • Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm-- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.  

We all want to feel and think well of ourselves. However, without careful self-examination, these powerful needs can invite destruction as can any unchecked addiction.

We so want to be liked, admired, and respected that we have made ourselves slaves to the opinions of others. We so crave them that we drive ourselves to either of two extremes - pandering or rejecting others before they can reject us. 

We are so thoroughly led by this craving that we often hurt those we seek to help. We set up entitlement programs without considering the fact they disempower their "beneficiaries," even to the point of destroying their families and dignity.

Foreseeing this, the great emancipationist, Frederick Douglass warned:

  • Everybody has asked the question. . ."What shall we do with the Negro?" I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! 

Misguided idealism has hurt the Black community. Walter E. Williams, professor of economics, George Mason University, does not think that the problems that the Black community is now experiencing are a product of slavery, Jim Crow, or even systemic racism, but of welfare programs:

  • A major part of the solution should be the elimination of public and private policy that rewards inferiority and irresponsibility. Chief among the policies that reward inferiority and irresponsibility is the welfare state. When some people know that they can have children out of wedlock, drop out of school and refuse employment and suffer little consequence, one should not be surprised to see the growth of such behavior. The poverty rate among blacks is about 30 percent. It’s seen as politically correct to blame today’s poverty on racial discrimination, but that’s nonsense. Why? The poverty rate among black intact husband-and-wife families has been in the single digits for more than two decades.

According to Williams, political correctness has even undermined largely black schools:

  • Education is one of the ways out of poverty, but stupid political correctness stands in the way for many blacks. For example, a few years ago, a white Charleston, South Carolina, teacher frequently complained of black students calling her a white b—-, white m—–f—–, white c— and white ho. School officials told her that racially charged profanity was simply part of the students’ culture and that if she couldn’t handle it, she was in the wrong school.

Failing to hold students accountable for anti-social behavior corrupts the school and diminishes the possibility of obtaining a good education.

According to Williams, over-indulgent liberal policies have de-motivated blacks by holding them to lower standards:

  • Many whites are ashamed and saddened by our history of slavery, Jim Crow and gross racial discrimination. As a result, they often hold blacks accountable to standards and conduct they would never accept from whites. A recent example is black students at colleges such as NYU, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Oberlin demanding racially segregated housing. Spineless college administrators have caved to their demands. These administrators would never even listen to a group of white students demanding white-only housing accommodations. These administrators and other guilt-ridden whites have one standard of conduct for whites and a lower standard for blacks.

White guilt and idealism hold blacks to a lower standard, approving their racial prejudices while penalizing whites for the same. This can only serve to further exclude blacks from white society.

Williams claims liberal policies have also made academic excellence more unattainable:

  • Black people can be thankful that racist forms of double standards and public and private policies rewarding inferiority and irresponsibility were not broadly accepted during the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. There would not have been the kind of intellectual excellence and spiritual courage that created the world’s most successful civil rights movement.

Instead of coming to grips with the negative impact of liberal policies, the liberal idealists have instead invented alternative explanations for black failure, including "white privilege" and "systemic racism." What happened to the ideal M.L. King strove to achieve - to judge, not by skin color, but by character?

The noted Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis also recognized the threat of an idealism untamed by wisdom:

  • Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

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