Political Ideals

I picked up Bertrand Russell’s Political Ideals (1917) earlier in the pandemic and was struck by its sensibility:

Few men seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty, quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only because men are apathetic that this is not achieved, only because imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what always must be. With good-will, generosity, intelligence, these things could be brought about.

Beautiful? Yes. Harrowing? Yes. True? I don’t know.

Surely some of our societal ills–abject poverty, illness, etc.–have only the apathy (and often downright greed) of politicians and their voters to blame. But could an earth filled with good-willed, generous, intelligent people solve almost all of our problems within twenty years? Seems a bit wishful. Why is it so hard to accept that even our best efforts may not be enough to eliminate suffering?

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