In Defence of Idealism

Today I have been called an idealist. You’d think this is something to applaud but not when it is married with, ‘you don’t live in the real world’. I have a real problem with people who think idealism is something bad when it comes to society and politics. A bedrock of democracy, liberty and freedom has been idealism. Someone, somewhere at sometime thought, ‘The way we are being treated is shitty’ and someone else replied, ‘Well, it’s better than the alternative’. It is those keep-your-head-down-and-your-mouth-shut people who contribute to shitty things. Now, before you all think I am going to sit down by a campfire and sing some Bob Dylan, get a grip. I am outspoken, always have been, always will be the kind of guy who asks, ‘Why?’ I am free to do so, and I am proud that I live in a country where I am free to do so. I think everyone should have that right. I think we should all question a little more than we do.


I question my government. I question everything they do and hide. Give me time and space and I will question you. I think trident is a travesty. Not because of the cost, which is obscene, but on the simple premise of the Chekhovian idea of never bringing a gun into a scene. If there is a gun, it’s going to go off. If you have nuclear weapons other countries are going to have theirs directed your way. I grew up with the Cold War, 1983/84 where bloody scary years as the arms race gathered pace and we all pissed ourselves when we saw Threads. Ronald Reagan saw the American version, The Day After, he phoned up Russia the following morning and the race for nuclear obliteration was halted. In such novels as On the Beach, Nevil Shute paints a dead world creeping ever closer on radiation winds towards Australia, it is relentless, dark and utterly frightening but yet after all that there are those who scream at me when I call for complete nuclear disarmament that I am not living in the ‘real world’. That I am an idealist. Idealism has given us many things over the last two thousand years, it gave us a monotheism, atheism, democracy, capitalism, communism, socialism, worker’s rights, worker’s freedoms, suffragists, feminism, multiculturalism,  and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Idealists have stood up and said, ‘Look at this, it’s stupid, this isn’t the real world we live in’. Unless each and everyone of us has a nuclear bomb in their pantry for their own personal deterrent I do not accept that we need nuclear bombs. Look at the ghosts who survived Hirsohima. The soldiers who stood in the blast radius of atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb tests and consider this, trident is designed to kill millions in one foul swoop.  You cannot say that the bomb is a deterrent, for it to be a deterrent you have to use it and no one after Hiroshima would want to use one. We live in a world, thanks to nuclear testing and Hiroshima, where each of us has strontium 90 in our bones, we carry the bomb with us, we pass it to our children. I would rather live in a country where peace and diplomacy was the central tenant of our politics. This is not idealism, it is politics:

All war represents a failure of diplomacy

– TONY BENN, speech, February 28,1991


But maybe this man nailed it when he said:

In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God’s mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us — often a child — is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims.

– JIMMY CARTER, Nobel Lecture, December 10, 2002

To give you a small idea of the cost of life nuclear bombs have brought to our world between  90,000–146,000 people died in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki in one blinding moment. 57,470 soldiers died or were injured on the first day of the Somme in The Great War. I want to make those comparisons because The Great War was our first brush with mechanised warfare and by 1945 we had quadrupled the deaths through mechanisation. These are not numbers, these were children, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, they were living, breathing humans and if defending their rights to live in peace is idealism it is an idealism that should be defended by every living politician. Now consider the considerable deaths at Hiroshima, that bomb was 12.5 kilotons and trident is 100 kilotons per bomb, we have around 48 of them. This still only accounts for less than 2% of the nuclear arsenal in the world, our nuclear bombs do not make us global players, they just make us another rather expensive target. Don’t bring a nuclear bomb into a scene, you will have to use it and at terrible costs. Question everything, think for yourself and ask of your leaders, why do we need weapons that would kill all life? If you love the bomb so much, live in its shadow. Nuclear bombs are madness and we are not mad, our politicians should remember that, our war dead fought for us to be free, to live in peace and we sully their memories day after day in our pursuit of new and worse ways to wipe ourselves out. Don’t just sit there and say, ‘It’ll be worse without trident’ it is akin to those people in the factories who said, ‘Nothing good will come of forming a Union’. If you’re a coward, accept that within yourself, but do not force it on the rest of the world to sit in the dark with you.

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