Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pragmatic Idealism is my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.

As I sit on my chair typing away, to the left is my book shelf, full of around 50 books that I will need to pack away when I move in the next few months. Few I have read fully, most I have read at least the first chapter. Apart from two, they have one thing in common- they are all non fiction, and apart from five, they are all, at least in part, political. Mostly coming from a progressive (ie left wing, egalitarian, sustainable, humanist) perspective, they range in where they would sit on the left wing spectrum. Some would argue that American politics is so skewed to the right and ridiculous that a former president's autobiography can't possible be considered 'left wing' outside of America. Over on the far left, two of Noam Chomsky's books are probably the most radical. And yet I would enjoy reading them all, and find myself agreeing, and disagreeing in all of them. This is me, my political views are fluid and never fixed, but I always consider myself on the left.

Some people reject the 'left v right' label, ok well I want a society that is more equal regardless of gender, sexuality, race, creed etc and more environmental, valuing the clean air and water over the amount of shoes, or cars, owned, to give a few examples. I believe in the democratic process, just because people died in order to that we could have the vote, but because I consider democracy to be about more than just turning up to vote every few years. In liberal democratic nations, we have freedom of speech, however much we battle the right wing press for validity and truth. We have the ability to engage with our non-political friends, colleagues and family and attempt to steer them towards our type of worldview. We are armed with progressive values, facts and evidence, and the right is armed with money, power, influence and narratives that often combine asylum seekers, muslims, immigrants and refugees into one homogenous mass of undesirables. Yet we continue to speak out, for we must.

Where exactly am I on the political spectrum, I often ask myself. Not because I feel the need to label myself, but because I find politics fascinating, and I am fascinated by how I arrived with these progressive ideals, having not been brought up in a particularly political family. When people do inquire as to, "Are you a socialist? Are you a social democrat? Environmentalist? Feminist?" I think, "Yes, all of those things, for the most part" and reply, "I'm a pragmatic idealist." This gives me room for manoeuvre, for I am not one to hold onto one ideology and insist it is the only one that works. Probably because that would leave me intensely frustrated, I like it when things seem to be going my way. If they weren't, I would probably give up.

Having been criticized for volunteering for an environmental festival where we have corporations as vendors in return for a three figure sum so that the event can be free to everyone, I rely on my pragmatic idealist label. This is my first year volunteering for this group, and I chose to do it because last year I saw what a great opportunity it was to educate and empower the community and individuals about the need for environmental protection, and what they can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. There are of course many protests and rallies that happen in Victoria all the time, yet few attract 5000 people, mostly people who don't consider themselves activists and otherwise wouldn't learn about the need to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

Of course we are all pragmatic idealists to an extent- few anti-capitalists refuse to own a laptop, or even join Facebook because of them being made by corporations. We live in a corporate world, and we have to use their means to fight it. We cannot totally shut ourselves out from the economic system we live in, because it is all inter-connected. I believe we will slowly adjust to a more just, sustainable system but change rarely happens instantly, maybe we don't see it happening. We don't want another drought in the horn of Africa made worse by man made climate change, but we know when one comes, we are going to use it to attempt to waken up society to the injustice of continuing to burn fossil fuels. We want people to see the world the way we do, but we need to realize they won't always, and therefore we need to be pragmatic.

I know I don't ever want to work for a corporation again, I know I want to make a real difference in the world, I know I want a job that I enjoy, and I know I don't know what that job is.

Having to go to college for two years in order to stay in Canada and then attain a three year work permit after graduation, I could take a financial diploma, I could do well. I could even use that diploma to gain a good job in a credit union and help to make a difference in my community. I know that me taking a 'Criminal and social justice' diploma is less valuable to my future career because I know there aren't many jobs in that field.

Having taken the 'Criminal and social justice' diploma, I could try hard for a job as a social justice activist and come up empty handed. With my then being in my early 30's and probably longing for a family and feeling the need for a career, I could go and sell my soul to a corporation for a tidy wage.

Or I could manage to find a good job as some kind of community organizer, move to the city and only use public transit, and find a nice house with a garden where I grow all my own food.

My pragmatic idealism means I will probably end up somewhere inbetween these. It means my future is uncertain but it means I always have the 'Well I'm a pragmatic idealist' excuse.

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