Idealism and Pragmatism in the Development of Human Unity

The detailed review of the historical development of larger human societal aggregates helps us gain an appreciation for the issues and the difficulties involved in created a structure that will unify all of humanity.   While idealism may help to inspire a new direction, real change tends to take place at a very practical or pragmatic level, addressing the perceived needs of the individuals and their societal organisation, starting with the material needs.  The ideal, in a purely intellectual sense, does not effectuate the changes, and any attempt to track the potential steps towards human unity must needs therefore take into account the underlying factual basis, the practical issues and the built in prejudices and preconceptions which create so much resistance to change in the human being.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “In the absence of a general idealistic outburst of creative human hope which would make such changes possible, the future will be shaped not by the ideas of the thinker but by the practical mind of the politician which represents the average reason and temperament of the time and effects usually something much nearer the minimum than the maximum of what is possible.  The average general mind of a great mass of men, while it is ready to listen to such ideas as it has been prepared to receive and is accustomed to seize on this or that notion with a partisan avidity, is yet ruled in its actions not so much by its thought as by its interests, passions and prejudices.  The politician and the statesman — and the world is now full of politicians but very empty of statesmen — act in accordance with this average general mind of the mass; the one is governed by it, the other has always to take it into chief account and cannot lead it where he will, unless he is one of those great geniuses and powerful personalities who unite a large mind and dynamic force of conception with an enormous power or influence over men.  Moreover, the political mind has limitations of its own beyond those of the general average mind of the mass; it is even more respectful of the status quo, more disinclined to great adventures in which the safe footing of the past has to be abandoned, more incapable of launching out into the uncertain and the new.  To do that it must either be forced by general opinion or a powerful interest or else itself fall under the spell of a great new enthusiasm diffused in the mental atmosphere of the times.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 14, The Possibility of a First Step towards International Unity – Its Enormous Difficulties, pp. 115-116