Disclaimer: This specific post is not about music. Or, maybe it is. You tell me.
For years I considered myself to be a disillusioned idealist. Which probably is true, by the way. But not much of a specific signifier for me as an individual, because I have come to understand that this is probably true for many (most?) of us.
The world comes down hard on principles, standards and morals, and we are constantly under pressure to compromise, disregard and break them. I think when that realization hits us during our formative years, it’s just as traumatic an experience as that first romantic breakup. ’The end of the innocence’, as Don Henley put it.
Most of my principles in life are based on the naïve notion that we should be able to count on the good intentions of each other, even though reality repeatedly and relentlessly rubs in the cruel and painful truth, which is that we can’t. But I’m just too bullheaded to give up on that concept. I will continue to expect people to be selfless, generous and sincere, although I know that a lot of times they won’t. And when they’re not, it hurts. It hurts like a motherfucker. Even the best people you know will let you down on occasion, as you will let them down, maybe not intentionally, but you will. I constantly let myself down as well, which is kind of the ultimate bummer. I think it was Denis Leary who said; ”Life sucks. Get a helmet.”
Now, while I know that saying these things might make me come off as the most glorious party-pooper of all time, I’d ask you to consider one thing; As long as that shit still hurts, you are not dead inside.
Don’t allow cynicism to become a shield against that pain, because pain is a signal telling us that something is wrong, and something must be done. If you allow yourself to become cynical, you will accept things as if they can’t be changed for the better, and your soul will begin to shut down. Don’t do that to yourself. Stay alive, stay hopeful, stay idealistic. And take the pain.
But here’s the difference between a benign idealism and malignant fanaticism: the Idealist wants to do the right thing, and wishes for others to do the same, but will lead by example, and not force their will on anybody else or resort to bullying tactics to get their way. The Fanatics will have their way, consequences be damned, and no matter what their agenda is, they will force feed it to you until you either choke and die, or swallow it like a good boy. One word for you: Daesh. Another word for you: Trump.
But malignant fanaticism doesn’t just come on a big scale like that, we see it all around us all the time, in colleagues, in acquaintances, and sadly, sometimes in friends and family.
Be a benign idealist, be clear and sincere about what you believe is right and good, but also know that the only person you can actually change is yourself. Don’t become vindictive, don’t be a bully, and don’t allow yourself to stoop to the lows of others. Resisting these impulses will sometimes be painful. Let it hurt. Practice what you preach, and be the good that you wish to see in others.