Sunday, October 10, 2010

Idealist: To be or not to be

"Idealists...foolish enough to throw caution to the winds...have advanced mankind and have enriched the world," Emma Goldman

I wasn't sure which career path to choose for a rather long time. My first choice, of course, was to be an actress. Unfortunately for Hollywood, it didn't happen as I gave up the idea of becoming second Julia Roberts early in my life (around 10 or 12.) My next choice was journalism; I still carry passion for writing and expressing my own opinion wherever I go.

The big change happened in 10th grade when I did a report on the problems of the third-world countries for my geography class. Suddenly I was exposed to the world of hunger, poverty, and diseases on a scale I never knew before. Mind you, I am from Russia, which despite all of its political bravado has rather low standards of living.

However, one of the biggest things that enraged me was not poverty and omnipresence of AIDS in itself, but long history of colonialism and economic exploitation of the developing nations by the West that continues even now. From then on, my career goal was decided: to help people, especially the ones that are in dire need of it. What an unoriginal career goal, I thought. Doesn't everybody want to help other people? Isn't every job's ultimate goal is to help people? Not particularly, I learnt later.

As I studied International Relations at the university my illusions about the UN quickly evaporated. Yet somehow, I still didn't loose hope for a good-hearted and effective global government. During political theory classes I found myself somewhere in between Hobbes' and Locke's camps, my mind telling me that humans are rather corrupt and self-destructive, my heart, however, always believing in the good nature of fellow Homo sapiens.

Even now I haven't quite decided which camp I belong to. On Twitter I got a chance to connect with many "development skeptics" (who are this way only for the sake of progress and effectiveness in the the field of foreign aid and economic development.) On the other hand, I recently read a book by 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, who simply infects you with his optimism and belief in the good of humans' hearts!

So who am I, you wonder? An Idealist or a skeptic, Lockean or Hobbesian? If you look at my Twitter profile, you will learn that I am an idealist...with a skeptical side, which helps me focus on effectiveness and always keeps my feet on the ground.

"An idealist believes the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run," Sydney J. Harris

Which side are you on? Do you think it is worth being an idealist? Or do you think they always have their heads in the clouds? Maybe realism is the golden mean for you? Are you an aid skeptic or admire aid and philanthropic agencies simply for the attempt to help people? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments sections below.


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have been inspired once again. I would say that I am a realist with a skeptic side. I stay grounded, but I also believe that great things can happen no matter how we as humans have managed to mess things up.

  2. Just noticed your comment! :) We always agree lol If we concentrate only on the bad things and how humans always manage to mess everything up, it will be quite hard for us to do anything.