Idealists, Pragmatists and the Change Process

There is a proverb frequently cited in political circles in the West, that one should not make the “perfect” the enemy of the “good”.  Essentially, this is a call to avoid what some call “starry-eyed” idealism that has no chance of effectuation, when a “messier” process of incremental steps through many intermediate compromises will eventually move nearer to the goal.  Nature appears to adopt the incremental goal of evolutionary change, with advances followed by retrogressions, changes of course, and modifications along the way as the general line of development continues to progress.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Forces take the first place in actual effectuation; moral principles, reason, justice only so far as forces can be compelled or persuaded to admit them or, as more often happens, use them as subservient aids or inspiring battle-cries, a camouflage for their own interests.  Ideas … ordinarily  … have to work not only by a half-covert pressure but by accommodation to powerful forces or must even bribe and cajole them or work through and behind them.  It cannot be otherwise until the average and the aggregate man become more of an intellectual, moral and spiritual being and less predominantly the vital and emotional half-reasoning human animal.  The unrealised international idea will have for some time at least to work by this secondary method and through such accommodations with the realised forces of nationalism and imperialism.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 15, Some Lines of Fulfilment, pg. 127

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