Life is a train journey – bloody idealism

WEDNESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2005

11:54

“Real life is how well we pretend.” ~ character from Ready When You Are Mr McGill

15:39

I find the metaphor of life as a train journey with stations where you get off very useful. So it is that I ask at this moment: What if I say I have found my station? I know it is not New York Central, but it’s not the middle of nowhere, either!

It would still be possible to travel to another station later on, wouldn’t it? One can, if you so wish, continue the journey at a later stage, right? It is after all not the Middle Ages, or the 1950s!

Another thing: What happens if you hoped to reach a station more important than the one where you currently find yourself, but you realize your ambition has exceeded your capabilities? Do you jump on the roof of the first train that passes through, with other refugees without a ticket, just so you can still be on your way? Or if you must stay somewhere, must it necessarily be in a cheap motel in a cold room with leaking taps and stained bedding and a broken old TV?

22:40

For me, idealism has always been an inspiration, but the truth is that idealism, in practice, can be a bloody affair.

The French Revolution was launched by idealists (“liberty, equality, fraternity”), and entrenched by terror. National Socialism in Germany was fuelled by a corrupt ideal, but an ideal nonetheless – one of racial purity, and implemented by methods that included the death camps. Communism was the ideal of a classless world. Again, the practical implementation of the idea (at least in the twentieth century) was accompanied by terror, mass slaughter and almost pathological suppression of personal freedom. Fundamentalist Islam’s penchant for wasting innocent blood is well-known, with the ideal outcome of a paradise on earth.

Is idealism rotten at its core? Does idealism carry, within its veins, the seed of terror and human suffering?

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