March 1, 2006

Not the Jaded Path

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections at 3:01 am by egalitaria

Today marks the end of my second month working at the Centre for Public Policy Studies. It has been an incredible journey so far. Making my entrance into the organisation at a stage when important discussions were taking place, the immediate rush to churn out reports and write-ups, the lack of manpower that drilled me to get on my toes immediately and so on. I truly enjoy what I’m doing.

One of the reasons I joined something which seems so alien to some is because, like many other relatively young people, I still hold onto the concept of idealism. Despite being painfully aware of the situation our country is going through in terms of its management (or lack thereof), national governance (ditto) and so on, I hold strong to the need for those within my generation to stand up and take the call to work towards something. This something should not be something vague, not clouds up in the air but solid workable and feasible goals to be reached.

At the recent elections in 2004, the queues for voters ran spiralling long across the school corridors. I walked confidently to the room allocated for those in my age group category. I strolled breezily through the door with not a single soul in my path. What is this telling of? A generational apathy that is sweeping through our country.

Do I still believe that I, in my meagre work, albeit through networking with others, am able to change anything?

If I am able to actuate any semblance of paradigm shift, perhaps I would have gone a long way. But this is taking a long shot.

In my first month of work I met someone who told me that “it’s refreshing to see that idealism still exists!” The same person recently wondered aloud whether this idealism would last out. In fact, the bet is going on so far as to calculate the length of time before I eventually get jaded like all other fighters for a good cause.

The way I look at it is this: It is a given, an assumption, that we are truly faced with opposition all round to the good and the noble. This is a concept I have personally come up with from a long time ago. (Again, an unfortunate reason I am ashamed of but here it is: That every other Christian one meets at church ought to be assumed to be a Sunday-Christian and hypocritical in nature but when one chances upon a genuine follower one can then be pleased at this singular anomaly!)

Hence, my argument is that despite the knowledge of negativity constantly outweighing any optimistic prospects, does it make the cause any less worthy? No. Indeed it makes it even more crucial.

I do however acknowledge that there lies a yawning gap between intention and action. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If no action is actuated, what then of my high flying ideals? Will they be washed away as any other’s? When will I really get jaded and just sit back, gather what I can around me, and earn my keep?

My answer lies in the very word Idealism. This speaks of an unachievable high. The sun high up in the skies, so to speak. And to imagine that anyone can ever reach those heights is plain foolishness. What we do is to follow the sunlight of the path that leads that direction, and see how far we can go. The extent to which we can walk the sunlit path is in itself a measure. The ideal is the end in mind. To move one step towards it is to claim success in some respect.

Will I give up my ideals even when things will never work out the way I dream they will?

I sincerely hope not. After all, where would we be if only cynics and skeptics remained in the world?



  1. Alex Tang said,


    I did enjoy your sharing about yours thoughts.While it is true that young people appear more ‘idealistic’ than the older folks, it is not true that idealism disappear as we grow older. It depends on how you think about idealism. If you think it is some pie-in-the-sky type of goal that no human can possibly achieve, then it is doomed to failure. If you approach idealism as a philosophy, to be what you can be, given your present condition and opportunities, then idealism is very much alive.

    Often we do not associate idealism with reality testing. Is your ideals realistic? As we grow older, we become more aware of our limitations; our abilities, our physical bodies, our circumstances or lack of, our opportunities or lack of and our belief. How does all these stand out to our reality. That’s when it become important. How do we deal with reality testing. Do we take what God have given us and move on or do we take what God has given us and sit back to enjoy it. Or do you take what God have given us and roll over in surrender or give up to apathy?

    I always like what Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and founder/director of Center for Action and Contemplation wrote. ” It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with that do something with you.”

    It is the journey that is important. And my friend, one person can make the differnce. That I sincerely believe in.



  2. egalitaria said,

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for being so optimistic. I do still believe that it is important to be different and think different. But I also acknowledge the difficulty of anything getting done at all. Simply because of the way in which culture has seeped into society for too long, and too deep.

    Reality testing. This is the reality-idealist balance that everyone ought to be aware of, isn’t it? Too often high-flying ideals that are ungrounded are simply passed off as being stupid. If, however, matched with the right capacity to carry the dream through, then that is great. But how many people strike this balance? The dreamers don’t have the right resources to carry things through. The realists don’t have the big dreams, after having been roughed and rolled around in the real world.

    Very rarely will you find someone with the two together, and when you do, that’s a true discovery.

  3. Alex Tang said,


    That’s true about realist and dreamers. However, we need to factor in the ‘kairos’ moment or God’s timely intervention. That’s where the factor of maximum levaerage comes in- a large movement occurs due to a small amount of effort. That’s how David matched out to face Goliath with five stones in his pouch. That’s how Telemachus stopped the gladiator games. That how Ruth stopped the wholesale murder of her people.

  4. egalitaria said,

    Christians believe in God’s timely intervention in our daily lives, and that things do not quite happen by accident. Rather, a higher form governing our movements and actions, and in these special cases in which a great deed occurred, that God’s hand is involved. I understand what you mean. Ruth and David and even others like Rahab, Daniel, Joseph etc. are explained this way. Dreamers + kairos + reality = Change.

    But how about dreamers + reality = change? Then we say that these things happen by mere chance? It’s difficult to explain this rationally from a non-Christian point of view.


  5. Jess said,

    Trish, thanks for being an idealist who is not afraid to speak up.You’re an inspiration to me. Keep that idealism passion burning!

  6. egalitaria said,

    hey jess. thanks for the support! i’d say the same about you. 🙂

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