You might be one of them. When events push you to take a moralistic position, say, about equality, religion or climate, you see the faces of some idealists and you do not wish to be idealistic anymore. You search for the other point of view. Many are this way. This phenomenon is at the heart of why the world votes the way it does and acts in a way that is the exact opposite of what intellectuals say people should do. Many ordinary people who appear to be “right-wing" are so because they hate that one leftist, maybe two. Sometimes, idealists actually do make sense, but the worst thing they do to sense itself is being its evangelists. Can it be that the world would have been far more idealistic if there were no idealists?

A few days ago, the teenage climate-change activist Greta Thunberg admonished tennis legend Roger Federer for endorsing the Switzerland-based investment bank Credit Suisse, which she has accused of funding the exploration of fossil fuels. There is something about all this that annoys you. You love the world, but hate the self-righteous. You cannot be on the same side as such people. You want to build an argument against them. These are young beneficiaries of capitalist societies that, until recently, plundered the world—you want to say—people who have everything, hence have lifestyles that account for much more pollution than an Indian who has never heard of “climate-change", and are now searching for some meaning to their lives. But this argument, you know, is dull.

Meanwhile, the future employees of Credit Suisse and other banks, the ones who will write the fine print on the contracts that drive capitalism, too, have found their own safe moral outrage. Last November, when the Consul General of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan, was about to begin delivering a talk at Harvard Law School, about a hundred students, more than half his audience, walked out in a planned act of flash posturing against Israel.

You don’t want to have the same sham views as these people. You despise those who inherited their wealth and write long essays lamenting inequality; you are tired of slighted academics getting back at the government through righteous attacks on its policies; and of the clinically depressed who see a world as bleak as their own lives. You can see what these people believe—that they are somehow morally superior to you because they feel beautiful feelings.

What must you do? The ambassadors of giant ideals are often moral midgets. So, what must you do? Maybe it is time you do not let idealists put you off idealism.

Idealism should be ingested very differently by the intelligent, the wise, the analytical, the old, the honest, the non-sentimental, the happy, the strong and the sane.

One way of looking at our ideals is not as grand virtues alone, but chiefly as ideas that have survived and endured. Generations of humans across societies have naturally selected those ideas to endure. Even the ideals that govern the new idealism of climate change are very old. One could argue that the climate change movement is not about climate at all—it is about misanthropy, it is about contempt for humans. Some of our most powerful guiding philosophies against consumption and excesses, and all forms of gluttony, have emerged from the contempt for our race that holds within its contempt the conviction that there is an ideal state of being. Organized misanthropy has always been a minority’s contempt for the majority. The climate change movement is exactly that.

This is how we must see modern idealism, as a complex result of ancient ideas that have had excellent reasons to survive and against which all resistance will be futile.

Another irritant you may have is the realization that most idealists are self-serving. But then selfishness is the most effective way to propagate idealism.

After madness, the best conductor of an idea is self-interest. Without the force of self-interest, good will not be able to fight evil. For instance, the only way the greed of capitalism can be countered is through other forms of self-interests, like the battle of the losers of capitalism against those who are richer than them.

Also, people who are innately good but despise idealism because they despise idealists can save themselves from poor arguments if they just surrender to the power of collective human virtues. Recently, I read an argument that if Indians are allowed to degrade their ecology and prosper, they will eventually become rich enough to care for nature. This sort of nonsense captivates you, not because you hate the idealism of caring for the natural environmental, but the circus of idealists.

You may also consider idealism as heritage. It may have some trappings of modernity, but idealism bears a closer similarity to tradition.

Many traditions have vanished or are vanishing, and are kept alive artificially. Languages and dialects, for instance, that have lost their utility over the years; or dances that are too dreary for anyone. The real heritage of a place is what its cultural middlemen do not have to work hard to conserve—for instance, cuisine and daily wear. The ideals that have survived have the same momentum of time as traditions that have survived. A way to look upon idealists is not as prophets, but as zombies in the trace of a great power they do not fully fathom. So why let zombies come in the way of experiencing an old moral force, which is what idealism is?

Manu Joseph is a journalist, and a novelist, most recently of ‘Miss Laila, Armed And Dangerous’

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