Maurits in 't Veld is a philosopher and historian who works as a teacher in secondary education. Last year, he published "Idealism Has a Future: An Essay on the Common Good."
"As far as I'm concerned, this is not a time for optimism. We are a burden on the Earth, as evidenced by climate disasters and the loss of biodiversity. Violence, oppression, and inequality drive people away who are increasingly unwelcome elsewhere. In our own country, the central government has divested itself of tasks and now appears powerless to address pressing issues. When it does act, it often causes harm, as seen in the Toeslagenaffaire or the COVID-19 lockdowns. In times of sometimes grim divisiveness, we struggle to identify who truly serves the common good. It's not easy to find a silver lining in this.
Some might argue that this is precisely when we need optimism. Faced with all these injustices, pessimism is the last thing we need. Pessimists are armchair critics. Pessimism breeds complacency. Hope keeps us going. But the unattractiveness of pessimism doesn't make optimism automatically acceptable. Optimism hands us rose-tinted glasses. It encourages us to have faith in the current system and the current course. Such trust must be earned, but there are far too many terrible things happening in the world for that. Shouldn't we critically examine ourselves and our way of life? Often, we play a role in the creation of our problems (such as the climate and COVID-19 crises). Looking in the mirror might help us recognize that role. Optimism may seem wise, but it quickly leads to naivety.
How can we maintain hope? Through idealism. Idealists understand the value of self-reflection and system reflection, unlike many optimists. Idealism involves dedication to an ideal. Idealists take action and are willing to change their habits if necessary for the common good. In contrast, an optimist has too few concerns to invest themselves in making the world better. With my lecture on October 12th, I want to encourage idealists, particularly in the context of economic education. My hope is that ideals, values, and the common good will once again take center stage in the public debate about the organization of our country, including our economy."