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Mon Feb 26, 2018, 11:37 AM

Ideals are central, not peripheral

We sometimes treat ideals as silly and impossible to implement. Some, like making all blizzards go away, certainly are ridiculous. But maybe we should separate the silly from the realistic and treat the formation and vivid articulation of achievable ideals as a critical operating system at the center of the hive mind.

Take democracy and the abolition of slavery. These were once considered out of reach, but became a standard for much of the world. Initially they had to be promoted as achievable – repeatedly – but what this framing did was actually quite critical to the functioning of group mind: a positive, well-defined ideal may actually function as a memetic seed or operating system... it provides a vivid, and achievable blueprint for the future. It isn't pie-in-the-sky at all. Ideals are actually necessary for a functioning society.

Here are some examples of how well-defined ideals actually leverage change:

– Women claiming their rights by marching in the streets during the women's suffrage movement. They embodied the concept of women's collective power and the institutionalization of the same came about: voting rights for women.

– A vision of scientifically advanced black culture in the new film Black Panther is breaking box office records and giving African American children new kinds of role models.

– The Parkland massacre survivors stating with intense emotion that enough is enough. It has catalyzed a ripple of sentiment for a ban on assault rifles and the linking of Republicans with funding from the NRA. These kids' vision of change is more likely to bring about change in gun laws than any efforts by the more wonkish set before them. They have fearlessly and passionately framed the ideal and it is working.

– Philosophical discussions about the usefulness of ideals (like this one) being swept up in the Democratic Underground and reminding us all that change comes through a combination of ideal-setting (philosophy and culture), platform articulation (social science and policy wonks), and action (everyone voting).

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Reply Ideals are central, not peripheral (Original post)
DemocracyMouse Feb 2018 OP
Croney Feb 2018 #1
DemocracyMouse Feb 2018 #2
DemocracyMouse Feb 2018 #3

Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Mon Feb 26, 2018, 11:58 AM

1. Ideals as goals?

I substituted “goal” for every “ideal” in your post and it made just as much sense, but perhaps “ideal” carries a moral imperative that “goal” does not. I could have the goal of killing kittens, but my conscience and character would never permit me to say there is anything ideal about doing so. I guess I think of “ideal” as an adjective more than a noun.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Mon Feb 26, 2018, 12:18 PM

2. Ideals are expressed via the heart

Ideals mix heart, mind and aesthetics. Goals are similar, indeed, but are far simpler things expressed by policy folks. Without a delicious ideal hovering nearby a goal is not sufficiently motivating.

A good example: the British king did not tap a shipping magnate to set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The cold, miserable winters of the first settlers (and battles with Native Americans who didn't find the incursion of Europeans very funny) were more likely to be endured by the Puritans like John Winthrop who held out the religious ideal of a "city on a hill" to be highly motivating.

This gets into some interesting neuroscience territory now often referred to as "embodied cognition" and "emotional intelligence."

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 26, 2018, 12:24 PM

3. And the emotional intelligence of the Parkland survivors is astounding

They articulate an anti-assault weapon vision/ideal for the USA very convincingly. This is due largely to their youthful vulnerability, a great education, and their physical tie-in with the murder of their classmates. (17 murdered and 14 seriously injured). This is the very definition of embodied cognition. The tone of their voices speaks volumes.

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