The Burden of Idealism


This isn’t a weekend, thing you know.  Believers don’t clock on and clock off.  There’s never a time when you’re off-duty.  Even when you’re alone, you have to watch yourself, keep checking on those levels of erosion to see how badly disappointments have grazed on your spirit.  You have to monitor your system, check for numbness and indifference, keep tabs on your apathy meter, vet your more cynical jokes to make sure you haven’t started meaning them.  It can turn malignant without you realising.  It’s happened to better idealists than me.

You can spot them, the dreamers who’ve undergone that horrible, insidious transition, if you know the signs.  If, as Hunter S Thompson once put it, you have ‘the right kind of eyes’,  you can still see traces of the idealists they once were.  There’s an edge to their bitterness that sets them apart.  There’s a sadness mingled through the cynicism, when they laugh off whatever tragedy or travesty happens to be headlining the news at the time.  That shuddering recognition of guilt at having at some point looked around themselves and having decided: ‘The hell with it.  This will do.’

They never come back, never recover from that compromise.  And most of them don’t even realise they’re making it until it’s too late.

They’ll never be true cynics, not really, no matter how hard they try, no matter how jaded and bleak their jokes become.  But the door to idealism only opens from the other side.  These ideological quizlings… all they can do is carry on their pantomime of affected indifference, shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes at the day’s new disaster, and watch that door, hoping that maybe they can slip through before it slams shut, the next time some other believer, like they once were, makes the same compromise they once did.

But they’re never quick enough.  The door always swings shut with them still on the cynics’ side.  So they take another shot of anaesthetic, and pretend this was where they wanted to be all along.

System diagnostic:

Anger: 4.9 [moderate but mostly residual]

Apathy: 47 [high]

Cynicism: 68 [very high]

Disillusionment: 9.85 [critical]

Idealism: TRACE

I’m holding on.  Just.  But it’s getting lonely in here.

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