Reality vs. Idealism

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my oldest cousin, lately. He’s struggling with the fact that his idealism keeps running smack into the wall of reality. Here’s my latest response to him:

Reality only knows one truth, hence my watch phrase: Truth is.

Idealism involves picking a position, cherry-picking facts which tend to support it, then doggedly defending it against reality.

Reality involves examining all the facts in order to determine the most appropriate position on which to stand in the first place.

I learned to distinguish the two during my flying career in the Air Force. Neither the enemy, nor weather, nor forces of physics, nor the realities of terrain cared about where you thought you were or what you thought you were doing. Cold, hard reality alone determined your fate. In aviation, you’re either on the same page as reality or you stand a decent chance of meeting your maker. I can give you the names of five friends who forgot that and learned the last lesson of their lives the hard way.

There’s a lot more room for error in politics, but in the end, history has always proven that reality triumphs over idealism. Rich countries like ancient Rome and modern USA can afford to go down the road of idealism longer than others, but in the end, reality always triumphs, just as certain as the fact that airplanes cannot fly through cumulus granite. As we’ve seen from recent events during this last week of March, 2015, flying through terrain doesn’t work any better in France than it did for my friends in North Carolina, Puerto Rico, or Washington State.

Reality won. Their idealism did not.

How do we ensure we remain firmly ensconced in the grip of reality, instead of swept away by the fallacies of idealism?

It’s quite simple, really, and begins with an understanding of why retired U.S. Naval Officer and Hugo Award king Robert A. Heinlein once said, “Staying young requires the unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods.”

1. Never allow idealism to determine the position upon which you should stand. “Just the facts, Ma’am.” In fact, most of the discussion between our Founding Fathers in the years and months leading up to the birth of our Constitution in 1787 involved separating idealism from reality, the chaff from the wheat. The idealists wanted to instill a democracy, but the realists remember the lessons of history, specifically Rome, which began as a republic, allowed itself to devolve into a democracy, at which point it quickly crumbled into anarchy.

Thankfully, the realists won, which is why we have a Republican form of government, not a democracy (Article IV, Section 4, U.S. Constitution).

2. Never leap to conclusions. Instead, gather all the facts you can find. This is the way scientists do it. They never come out and say, “I have a theory…” Instead, if they make an apparently new observation, they examine the facts. If they don’t have enough facts, they gather more. Only when a preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that something is true do they then formulate a hypothesis designed to facilitate further testing.

3. Test and reject. This is where scientists and level-headed people separate the chaff from the wheat. There’s a massive amount of chaff (chatter) out there these days, including on all (yes – all) mainstream media channels. They’re not all bad. It’s just that some are better than others. Remember the oath of a witness, to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Let’s examine this in further details:

  • Tell the truth: Some sources remain silent on an issue when they should speak up. Most liberal media channels adopt this tactic.
  • The whole truth: Some sources twist the truth by not telling all of it. Nearly all channels have done this.
  • And nothing but the truth: A few sources tell outright lies, but they’re usually veiled to escape detection.

4. What remains is probably the truth. Only then do scientists postulate they have a theory, and offer a sold research paper up for peer-review.

In summary, this is the scientific method, how to separate the chaff from the wheat in order to proceed from idealism to realism: event –> observation –> hypothesis –> testing –> evaluation –> theory –> confirmation by many competent, independent reviews –> law

To hammer this point home:

What I’ve encountered most often in recent months involve accusations of insurrection and rebellion. Thank GOD these are simply answered:

Our Constitution remains “the supreme Law of the Land.” It alone forms the foundation of our Republic, known as the United States of America. Our Constitution requires an oath of office from our President as well as all members of both houses of Congress and all members of the Supreme Court to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Hold them to it. Verbatim. It’s NOT a rebellion. It’s a restoration.

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