Disenchantment (The Feeling, Not the TV Show)
Lately I’ve been thinking about how I would like our world to change and what kind of impact I would like to have on it over the course of my life.
Surely, a positive one. From my point of view, positive. And that’s where the problem starts.
Is what I think to be a positive impact on the world also an objectively positive thing?
The people who are a negative influence on the world, at least from my point of view, certainly don’t think their own influence to be negative.
A few years ago I thought it was time for me to engage with my surrounding society in a more political way. After all, individual contributions don’t matter in areas where collective action is required. And how to take collective action? By successfully influencing a politician or becoming one yourself.
So I joined the political party that closest aligns with my own views about how the world should be like and subsequently went to a regional meeting of that party. That was the first disenchantment.
People there are not the goal-getters who take measures into their own hands, but more the complainers. Makes sense, in retrospect. As a family man who runs two businesses, I never understand the complainers. You don’t get anywhere by just complaining – you need to do stuff.
So I met with a good friend of mine who works at a respected German news magazine and is very knowledgable about politics. I asked him how this all works. How do you change things? We talked for a few hours about that. He gave me very practical advise. My reaction to it was my second disenchantment.
Basically, what you need to do, is create a following behind you to get things done. The bigger, the better. People who support you and your ideas, but mostly you as a person. It means you need to be comfortable with becoming a public figure with all the downsides that come with it.
Then, in order to keep, or better, grow, your following, you need to keep them happy. Meaning, staying true to the ideas that you once had when the people first started supporting you. Changing opinions because of learning new facts is seen as weakness. It seems so tedious and ridden with negativity. Such a narrow path to walk. And even then, the possibility of success is far from a given.
You’re an Idiot!
The word “idiot” has its origin in ancient Greek and originally meant someone who keeps to themselves without being informed or active in society. So, in order to not be considered an idiot, you better engage and try to improve the world – or at least offer your services to the public in general to some extent.
But, you know, do I really have to?
It seems to tedious, slow, and like a minefield. Is it okay to just make the decision to keep out of it all? To prioritize private life as long as the public situation is bearable? Or should we step in early to prevent the most horrible turns that society might take?
Of course, all of this is amplified by having kids. On one hand, you’d like to use the little time that’s left to spend with your kids. And on the other hand you’d like to make the world a better place for your kids. They have to deal with the problems for a longer time than you.
For now, I’ve chosen to stay a private idiot. I still am financially supporting the causes I deem worthy, but my active engagement will have to wait until the right time comes.